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PREVIEW | The Violin Takes The Spotlight In Esprit Orchestra’s Violinissimo

By Anya Wassenberg on November 9, 2022

Esprit Orchestra (Photo: Karen Reeves)
Esprit Orchestra (Photo: Karen Reeves)

The violin takes centre stage in the next concert by Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra, featuring three of Toronto’s concertmasters performing as soloists.

The concertmaster of Esprit, Stephen Sitarski, Concertmaster of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra, Aaron Schwebel, and Concertmaster of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Marie Bérard will perform as soloists, and then come together to conclude the concert with a celebratory work by Alexina Louie, O.C. Louie will also moderate a pre-concert talk featuring composers and soloists prior to the concert.

L-R: Marie Bérard (Photo courtesy of the artist); Stephen Sitarski (Photo: Bo Huang); Aaron Schwebel (Photo: Lauren Hamm)
L-R: Marie Bérard (Photo courtesy of the artist); Stephen Sitarski (Photo: Bo Huang); Aaron Schwebel (Photo: Lauren Hamm)

On the program:

  • José Evangelista (Canada) Violinissimo (1992); Aaron Schwebel, soloist
  • Andrew Staniland (Canada) Six Enigmas (2022) — World Premiere & Esprit Commission; Stephen Sitarski, soloist
  • John Rea (Canada) Figures hâtives (2006); Marie Bérard, soloist
  • Alexina Louie (Canada) Triple Concerto for Three Violins & Orchestra (2017); Aaron Schwebel, Stephen Sitarski, Marie Bérard, violins

Evangelista’s Violinissimo was composed in 1992 for the Orquestra de Valencia. Within the traditional structure of a concerto, the composer explores his typically intense and melodic style. Esprit Orchestra performed the work in 2006, and it marks Aaron’s Schwebel debut as a soloist with Esprit.

L-R: Alexina Louie (Photo: Monique de St. Croix); Andrew Staniland (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R: Alexina Louie (Photo: Monique de St. Croix); Andrew Staniland (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Andrew Staniland’s Six Enigmas was composed in collaboration with Stephen Sitarski, concertmaster of Esprit Orchestra. It has a virtuosic approach that is designed to surprise audiences, in the bold musical language audiences have come to expect from the Canadian composer.

One day, Montréal composer John Rea heard a child say that to be impatient was to “wait quickly”. The truth of that statement, and the juxtaposition of concepts, intrigued him. Figures hâtives or “Hurried Figures” was the end result of that contemplation, with agitated rhythms that play against long, soaring lines. Commissioned and premiered by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal in 2006, both Esprit and violinist Marie Bérard last performed it together in 2009.

All three concertmaster/soloists come together to end the performance with Alexina Louie’s Triple Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra. The work was commissioned for the Sesquicentennial of Canada by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal & the National Arts Centre Orchestra. In its original performance, it was played by the concertmasters of each orchestra. It’s a celebratory work that the musicians are dedicating to the city of Toronto.

Violinissimo takes place on Sunday, November 27th at 8:00 p.m. at Koerner Hall, with a Pre-Concert Chat moderated by composer Alexina Louie, O.C. at 7:15 p.m. Tickets and more information here.


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