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June 2, 2016: 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration



Dear friends,
The final concert of the Virtuosi season is a celebration of 25 years of Virtuosi Concerts, 1991-2016. It’s hard to believe that we have presented over 250 concerts! Virtually all of Canada’s top instrumentalists and ensembles have appeared on our stage.

On June 2nd, we present our good friend, pianist ANGELA CHENG, in recital. We celebrate a long association and many concerts since we first brought her to Winnipeg in 1988, after she had won the Arthur Rubinstein and the Montreal International Piano Competitions.

The special guest host for the evening is ERIC FRIESEN, who honours us by flying in to Winnipeg just for this opportunity to pay tribute, not only to Virtuosi Concerts, but also to Virtuosi’s special audience who has supported us for a quarter of a century. Eric hosted a Virtuosi Concert just two months before the launch of Classic 107 FM, Winnipeg’s Classical Music Radio Station. In front of the Virtuosi audience overflowing onto the seats onstage, Eric asked, “So is classical music dying? Just look around you folks!”

Yes, our audience is special. One violinist said after her recital, that of course she wants to come back, but she would be happy to just sit in the audience!

The festivities on June 2nd begin with a glass of sparkling bubbly handed to you as you enter the doors of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, starting at 6.15 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and complimentary wine will flow until we enter the auditorium at 7.00 p.m. The Jazz duo of Keith Price, guitar and John Baron, bass will provide entertainment during the receptions and intermission.

Eric will introduce UW President Dr. Annette Trimbee who will bring anniversary greetings from The University of Winnipeg.

Eric will introduce our Young Artist Program performer, pianist DANIEL TSELYAKOV, who is a former student of Angela Cheng’s at Oberlin College where he received his bachelor’s degree. Daniel will perform a short, virtuosic, jazzy Russian work by Nikolai Kapustin simply entitled Variations, Op. 41. Daniel completes our first full year of providing a professional performance opportunity to talented, young Manitoba musicians, in front of the full Virtuosi audience. Daniel was thrilled to be invited to perform in honour of his teacher.

Eric will then bring Angela Cheng to the stage. She opens her program with a piece by Franz Joseph Haydn, Sonata No. 60 in C major Hob. XV1:50, written during his second trip to London (1793-94), and composed with a specific dedicatee in mind – the female keyboard virtuoso Therese Jansen Bartolozzi (1770-1843), whom Haydn had met and befriended while in England.

Haydn’s wit reflected in this work is best described by pianist Andras Schiff. He contrasts Haydn’s “famously dry brand of humour” which is so different from “the more slapstick ‘macho’ mirth of his student Beethoven.” He adds: “The humour in these [final] sonatas is perfectly shrink-wrapped around the persona of the female performer, half Maggie Smith, half Lucille Ball.” I’d love to know how much laughter Ms Bartolozzi evoked in 1794. Certainly, you should feel as free as the audience of that era to enjoy yourself fully!

We move from light-hearted whimsy to a work of great profundity – Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31 in A-flat, Op. 110, composed in 1821. Like his late string quartets, Beethoven’s final piano sonatas are considered amongst western civilization’s greatest and most profound creations. Yet, as musicologist Leslie Gerber has written [in a blog], “the plain fact is that many listeners find the late music difficult and even remote.”

Gerber writes: “What makes these late works less readily accessible than earlier ones is not the composer’s lack of communicative ability but, rather, Beethoven’s making use of his improved abilities to communicate new visions. Even if one hesitates to use religious or spiritual analogies in the description of music, in the last works of Beethoven such descriptions are inescapable. His prolonged suffering and isolation had led to an eventual transcendence, producing music that must be described as spiritual, even mystical.”

These works are a life-time challenge for the performer, to somehow channel the composer’s depth of meaning without getting in the way of the message by imposing one’s personal reaction to the music – a seeming paradox with every artist putting their own unique stamp on a work.

After a brief intermission, three great works by Chopin will be performed: Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major; Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23; and Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2. Rather than talk about Chopin, I want to talk about me and this Nocturne. It’s my favourite. When I started getting serious about playing better, this was the first piece I learned and then got lessons on. So when Angela first played here and included it on her program, I initially listened to her tape and also to recordings of dozens of other pianists. Her performance was the best, and I had the chutzpah to tell her so. I choose to believe she remembered and selected this piece again just for me.

After the concert, we retire to the lobby for more wine, savouries and partying and a few short commemorative remarks by Eric Friesen, VCI Board President Ian Scarth, and yours truly. Tribute will be paid to Dr. Leonard Kahane whose generous gift in memory of his late wife Hope Kahane allowed us to launch the Virtuosi Concerts Endowment Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation.
Angela Cheng will have a few CDs on sale and will sign them for you.

We hope you will want to be part of this memorable celebratory event. Help us to ensure that the artistic vision for Virtuosi Concerts endures for the next quarter-century. Call 204-786-9000 for tickets.





If you are not familiar with the Beethoven Op.110, I think you will appreciate listening to it before the concert.

CLICK HERE for a performance by pianist Hélène Grimaud

CLICK HERE for a performance by pianist Daniel Barenboim

CLICK HERE for a performance by pianist Claudio Arrau


CLICK HERE to read Holly Harris’ Winnipeg Free press article

Click here for the link to our 2016-17 Brochure..