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Symphony Nova Scotia to celebrate departing music director in upcoming season

The orchestra has scheduled several special concerts to mark the 15th and final year under the baton of Bernhard Gueller.

Symphony Nova Scotia’s 2017-18 season might end up being remembered for a seemingly random series of concerts.

It will be the 15th and final year as SNS music director for Bernhard Gueller, and performances of pieces that are particularly meaningful to him are designated in the new brochure with a Bernhard’s Bucket List icon.

“They are some of my special wishes,” Gueller said Wednesday during a presentation of the upcoming lineup at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in Halifax.

The first highlight for the conductor is the Oct. 12 season opener, a concert with soloist Giora Schmidt playing the Brahms Violin Concerto.

Giora Schmidt 2015The first highlight of the 2017-18 season for departing Symphony Nova Scotia conductor Bernhard Gueller is the Oct. 12 season opener in which soloist Giora Schmidt plays the Brahms Violin Concerto.

“A very, very special concert for me will be the Nov. 11 concert,” Gueller said.

The featured piece that evening will be the Requiem in C minor by Luigi Cherubini, and the composition’s unique nature should be immediately apparent.

“It is for male choir and orchestra — no soloists, no women,” said Gueller.

“He was already 80 years old when he wrote this, and he wrote it for himself.”

Symphony Nova Scotia will be joined by RAM Koor, the 50-voice Estonian national male choir.

Gueller’s bucket list is deep enough to include concerts featuring the music of ABBA, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. However, it’s the season-ending festival focused on Brahms and Beethoven that seems particularly significant.

“I thought, as a German conductor, why not say farewell with these two German composers.”

Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin will play Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 on May 8 and 9. The concerts also include the composer’s Symphony No. 1. Hamelin returns May 11 and 12 for concerts that include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Symphony No. 9.

Also standing out on the schedule is a guest appearance Jan. 17 by the Kronos Quartet for a concert that includes some of the acclaimed American group’s commissioned works by Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi composers.

Rajaton SmallThe Music of ABBA, featuring the Finnish vocal group Rajaton, kicks off the Symphonic Fusion series Oct. 27 to 29.

The Music of ABBA, featuring the Finnish vocal group Rajaton, kicks off the Symphonic Fusion series Oct. 27 to 29. Singer Eleanor McCain presents True North: Canada’s Greatest Hits on Nov. 4 and 5, while winter concerts will feature the music of David Bowie and Simon & Garfunkel. Rhapsody in Blue and West Side Story conclude the series April 20.

The Maritime Fusion series, which teams the orchestra with popular musicians from the region, starts Sept. 29 and 30 with the bluesy Matt Andersen. Dance music artist Ria Mae follows on Oct. 20 as part of the Halifax Pop Explosion.

Symphonic Soul: The Music of Motown will feature Cyndi Cain, Owen Lee and Dutch Robinson on Nov. 17 and 18. Singer-songwriter Ben Caplan is doing holiday-themed concerts Dec. 1 and 2. Evans & Doherty and Heather Rankin team up March 16 and 17.

Dutch Robinson 2Symphonic Soul: The Music of Motown will feature Cyndi Cain, Owen Lee and Dutch Robinson on Nov. 17 and 18.

The Baroque Series is highlighted by the return of the Toronto ensemble Tafelmusik on Nov. 26, with its multimedia show The Circle of Creation. The ever-popular Four Seasons by Vivaldi will be heard March 3 and 4.

In addition to the free Family Series, the youth-friendly Beethoven Lives Upstairs is scheduled for April 29.

Canada’s Ballet Jorgen returns April 14 and 15 with Anastasia. The performances are to be conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, the orchestra’s new artist-in-residence and community ambassador.

The season will also include the 27th year of multiple performances of The Nutcracker, a holiday family favourite that attracts a total audience of about 10,000 every season, symphony CEO Chris Wilkinson said.

“More and more people are becoming subscribers,” said Wilkinson. “Our subscription sales have increased over 25 per cent over the last two years.”

Gueller, who conducted the orchestra Wednesday as it played several excerpts from the coming season, was blunt in an assessment of the musicians on the stage.

“My feelings about this ensemble — the shortest way to express this — I love these guys.

“It was really a wonderful journey which we did together. And not only in a musical way; also we found lots of friends in the musical community in Halifax, and it was really a very, very, very nice time.

“There were many, many good concerts, and some were very good. There were also some other achievements, I think. There were some years, when CBC was still recording, when this orchestra was the most-recorded orchestra in Canada.

“We also opened the repertoire a bit more to contemporary music. We also commissioned some pieces. We did lots of premieres.”

Symphony NS - Beethoven's Ninth 2Symphony Nova Scotia performs Beethoven's Ninth May 11 and 12.

Wilkinson said Wednesday that the hunt for Gueller’s successor is well underway.

“The search committee has been very busy; we have several hundred applications for the position, and people that you see next year will have most likely declared their candidacy for the position of music director with Symphony Nova Scotia.”

Most concerts take place at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. Baroque Series concerts, with the exception of Tafelmusik and Mozart’s Messiah, take place at St. Andrew’s United Church.

The Jan. 25 Magnificent Mozart concert, conducted by Gueller and featuring pianist Luca Buratto, will also be staged Jan. 26 at St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg, Jan. 27 at Convocation Hall in Wolfville and Jan. 28 at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth

Subscription packages are on sale. Tickets for individual concerts go on sale Aug. 1. Visit

Masterworks Series

Oct. 12, Giora Schmidt Plays Brahms

Oct. 26, Denise Djokic

Nov. 11, Cherubini's Requiem with RAM Koor

Nov. 23, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth

Jan. 25, Magnificent Mozart

Feb. 8, Rachel Barton Pine Plays Wieniawski

Feb. 22, Charles Richard-Hamelin Plays Chopin

March 8, Beethoven’s Eighth & Copland’s Clarinet

May 8-9, Festival: Brahms with Marc-Andre Hamelin

May 11-12, Festival: Beethoven’s Ninth

Symphonic Fusion

Oct. 27-29, The Music of ABBA with Rajaton

Nov. 4-5, True North: Canada’s Greatest Hits

Jan. 19-20, The Music of David Bowie

Feb. 2-3, The Music of Simon & Garfunkel

April 20, Rhapsody in Blue & West Side Story

Maritime Fusion

Sept. 29-30, Matt Andersen

Oct. 20, Halifax Pop Explosion: Ria Mae

Nov. 17-18: Symphonic Soul: The Music of Motown

Dec. 1-2, Ben Caplan’s Holiday Classics

March 16-17, Evans & Doherty with Heather Rankin

Baroque Series

Nov. 26, Tafelmusik: The Circle of Creation

Jan. 13-14, The Vesuvius Ensemble

March 3-4, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

March 25, J.S. Bach & Sons

Special Concerts

Nov. 11, RAM Koor

Dec. 8-10, 14-17, The Nutcracker

Dec. 21-22, Mozart’s Messiah

Jan. 17, The Kronos Quartet

April 14-15, Anastasia with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen

April 29, Beethoven Lives Upstairs


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