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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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 symphonynovascotia.ca.
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
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
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
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
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