Wednesday, April 1, 2009

News from the Niagara Symphony comes this weekend

This weekend, the first weekend of April, the Niagara Symphony presents an ending, and a beginning. The ending is the final concert of the current Masters series, Sunday afternoon, April 5th at Centre for the Arts, Brock University. Guest conductor John Morris Russell takes the podium to conduct the Spring Dance from Chan Ka Nin's Four Seasons Suite, Beethoven's wonderful Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47. The guest artist is violinist Catherine Manoukian, truly a young artist to watch in the future.

But the Niagara Symphony will also be looking ahead to next season, as they announce on Sunday the four finalists in the six-month search for a new music director, following the hasty departure of Daniel Swift just prior to the beginning of the season. We're assured the four candidates are pretty impressive; we'll find out next season when each will conduct one Masters and one Pops! concert, and that takes us to an announcement around May of 2010 of who the new music director will be. This is never an easy process, and takes a lot of time and effort. This time around, especially, the Niagara Symphony knows they have to get it right: in this day and age, we can't do this again for awhile! So Christopher Newton, Chairman of the Niagara Symphony Music Director Search Committee will announce the four finalists at the beginning of Sunday afternoon's concert. I am interested to hear the results of the search: I have been kept in the dark along with everyone else as to who the four candidates will be.

I remember going down this road several years ago, twice in fact; first when Michael Reason was chosen for the post, and then a decade ago when Daniel Swift assumed the post. Each time, the new music director brought a lot of hope and promise for a better future, and fresh new ideas to the season. With both of those music directors, their promise was fulfilled, at least for a time, and each decided to leave the post for other opportunities further afield. That is not a bad thing, really, as fresh blood can do amazing things for the players of a symphony orchestra. This year, in fact, the revolving door of guest conductors has produced largely impressive results from the orchestra, kept on the edge of their collective seats as they learn the wants and desires of each guest conductor. It has been a fun, if rather uneven, experience this season.

Also this Sunday, I will be in the lobby before, at intermission and after the performance with my customary selection of recordings available for sale, including a couple of complete Beethoven symphony sets, conducted in different eras by Herbert von Karajan. I'll also have a good selection of Catherine Manoukian's recordings for sale, courtesy of the good folks at Marquis Records. Be sure to stop by and say hello if you're at the concert.

Of course, both the Beethoven sets and one of Catherine Manoukian's discs are currently available on the Mike's Picks page of my website, found at, ready for purchase right now. Manoukian is a gifted young artist, and I am sure after hearing her on Sunday you'll want to get at least one of her discs for your collection. Her Chopin for Violin collection, made up of many of Chopin's familiar piano pieces transcribed for violin, is my particular favourite, and you'll find that featured on my website.

Hope to see you at the concert on Sunday, and let's see what the news is on a new conductor for the Niagara Symphony!

April 1st, 2009.

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