Esprit Orchestra announces 2023/2024 Concert Season

August 23rd, 2023 Download this release in PDF format

For Immediate Release – Wednesday August 23rd, 2023


TORONTO, ON – Today, Esprit Orchestra announced its 41st season –  a series of five concerts performed from October 2023 to April 2024 at Koerner Hall. Founding Music Director and Conductor Alex Pauk, C.M., leads the orchestra through a season of bold, visionary programming; a sonic exploration traversing centuries, continents and beyond. Highlights of the season include the North American Premiere of Operascope, an Esprit Orchestra co-commission by Unsuk Chin, spotlights on György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis and R. Murray Schafer, a tribute to the late Kaija Saariaho, and numerous Canadian and North American Premiere performances. 
On Sunday, October 15th, 2023, the season commences with X MARKS THE SPOT; a musical voyage spanning the depths of the sea to the vast infinity of the cosmos. Born out of a stomp along a Scottish beach, Anna Meredith’s stirring fanfare Nautilus began life as an electronic track, a cult favourite often employed as a soundtrack to scenes of chaos in film and television. The version presented on this program, receiving its Canadian Premiere, is a dynamic new orchestral arrangement. An ancient castle shrouded in the mist of the Bavarian mountains and the looming spectre of Wagner form the wellspring of inspiration for R. Murray Schafer’s Dream Rainbow Dream Thunder, a cherished work and among the very first recorded by Esprit. Best known to movie-goers as underscoring for the endless void of deep space in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, György Ligeti’s epochal Atmosphères explores the extreme limits of sound and silence, as though suspended in the cosmos. Iannis Xenakis, the brilliant architect, mathematician and music revolutionary, is spotlighted through performances of two seminal works. In Pour les Baleines (For the Whales), a colossal string orchestra protests the slaughter and abuse of whales, while the seismically innovative Jonchaies (“the place where rushes grow”), composed for a staggering 109 musicians, oscillates rapidly through dramatic, sweeping gestures in sound. Jonchaies marks the apex of Xenakis’ output and a pinnacle of modern orchestral music. 
CIRCLE MAPS, taking place on Thursday, November 30th, presents a kaleidoscopic view of diverse musical worlds; the sublime and vividly imagined yet also the introspective and the tangible. In honour of the late Kaija Saariaho, Esprit will present the Canadian Premiere of Circle Map, a mystical setting of texts by the great Persian poet Rumi, for large orchestra and electronics. In Api-danza macabra (Macabre Bee Dance of Death), Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj recalls The Flight of the Bumblebee with charisma, wit, and urgent immediacy while lamenting the dramatic ecological loss that is bee extinction. Millefleur, the sonic garden adorned with a thousand flowers by the ingenious Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, unfurls with the radiance of an ornate tapestry. Composed especially for the eminent harpist Erica Goodman, the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra by Esprit Music Director, Alex Pauk, provides a showcase for the exceptional virtuosity of this singular figure in Canadian music. In his debut appearance with Esprit, pianist Kevin Ahfat will perform the transcendental Postludium, for piano and orchestra by Valentin Silvestrov, Ukraine’s foremost composer now displaced due to Putin’s war.
The season continues on Thursday, January 24th, 2024 with 三 / THREE. In collaboration with exceptional orchestras from around the world, Esprit Orchestra has co-commissioned and will present the North American Premiere of Operascope, a new work for orchestra by the remarkable Unsuk Chin. Tracing the history of opera from Verdi to Berg, Operascope marks the most recent of Chin’s numerous orchestral works to be championed and performed by Esprit. Vancouver-based Rita Ueda, winner of the 2022 Azrieli Music Prize Commission for New Canadian Music, illustrates the rich diversity and multiculturalism of Canadian society in Birds Calling…From the Canada in You, for shō, sheng/suona and orchestra. Surrounding the audience throughout the concert hall, a forest of swirling Canadian bird sounds mingle with Japanese and Chinese solo instruments for a deeply moving musical experience unlike any other. Through the lens of Jungian psychology, Misato Mochizuki’s Nigredo offers a nuanced homage to the great Robert Schumann while mirroring his mental decline.
Thursday, March 28th, 2024 sees Esprit Orchestra present VIOLINISSIMO II, a reprise of last season’s acclaimed celebration of the violin concerto. Off the heels of performing Spring and Winter from Max Richter’s Recomposed Four Seasons, violinist Aaron Schwebel returns to perform this fabulous work in its entirety. In sharp contrast to this modern and minimalist reimagining of Vivaldi, the program includes the diabolically virtuosic and astonishing Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by György Ligeti, performed by violinist Mark Fewer. In this ingenious synthesis of bold, experimental sounds and textures, Ligeti fearlessly employs unconventional tunings, choirs of ocarinas, recorders and slide whistles, with brash aggressive gestures juxtaposed with sumptuous folkloric melodies; a musical summit for the boldest of virtuosi with an indelible impact. Bridging these Baroque-inspired and hyper-modernist sound worlds will be a performance of Continuum, an amuse-bouche of sorts for solo harpsichord performed by Toronto-based Wesley Shen
SONIC UNIVERSE, the finale of Esprit Orchestra’s 41st season on Thursday, April 25th, 2024, contains two masterworks from two of the greatest composers of our time. Following a deeply moving recent performance for which the composer was present, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo returns to reprise the role of Clara Schumann in R. Murray Schafer’s poignant monodrama, Adieu Robert Schumann. Selections from Clara’s diaries, fragments of Schumann’s lieder and piano works, particularly “Dein Angesicht so lieb und schön”, written at the time of his earliest hallucinations, comprise the foundation for this dramatic setting of the composer’s final days. American composer John Adams is regarded as one of today’s foremost composers and perhaps the most prolific American musical voice. Named for Schoenberg’s sweeping treatise on musical harmony, Harmonielehre comprises a massively sophisticated, imaginative and referential symphonic experience that unfolds over three expansive movements. Incorporating minimalist development techniques, imitations of late-romanticism, references to Sibelius and Mahler and intimations of impressionism. In postmodernist fashion Adams looks to the past while charting a path into the future, as though the crux of contemporary music’s past and future is embodied in a single work. 

Sunday October 15th, 2023 | Koerner Hall

Concert: 8PM | Pre-concert talk: 7:15PM
Alex Pauk | Conductor


Anna Meredith (Scotland) Nautilus * (2011/21)
arranged for orchestra by Jack Ross
      * Canadian Premiere
Iannis Xenakis (Greece) Pour les Baleines (1986)  
(For the Whales) 
for large string orchestra
György Ligeti (Hungary) Atmosphères (1961) 
for large orchestra
R. Murray Schafer (Canada) Dream Rainbow Dream Thunder (1986) 
Iannis Xenakis (Greece) Jonchaies (1977) 
for 109 musicians

Thursday November 30th, 2023 | Koerner Hall

Concert: 8PM | Pre-concert talk: 7:15PM
Alex Pauk | Conductor
Erica Goodman | Harp
Kevin Ahfat | Piano


Vito Žuraj (Slovenia) Api-danza macabra * (2021) 
(Macabre Bee Dance) * North American Premiere
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė (Lithuania)       Millefleur ** (2018) 
          ** Canadian Premiere
Alex Pauk (Canada) Concerto for Harp & Orchestra (2005) 
Originally commissioned by Erica Goodman with the support of the Ontario Arts Council
I. Floating World
II. Riffs
III. Embrace 
IV. Cadenza
V. Salsalito
Valentin Silvestrov (Ukraine) Postludium (1984) 
Symphonic Poem for Piano & Orchestra
Kaija Saariaho (Finland) Circle Map ** (2012) 
for orchestra and electronics
** Canadian Premiere

Wednesday January 24th, 2024 | Koerner Hall

Concert: 8PM | Pre-concert talk: 7:15PM
Alex Pauk | Conductor
Naomi Sato | Shō
Zhongxi Wu | Sheng/Suona

三  [ THREE ]

Misato Mochizuki (Japan) Nigredo * (2009/rev.2018) 
Hommage à Robert Schumann
* North American Premiere


Unsuk Chin (South Korea) Operascope ** (2023) 
          ** North American Premiere, co-commissioned by the
           Bayerische Staatsorchester (DE) Esprit Orchestra (CA), Orchestre de Paris (FR) 
                            Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (BR) & Tongyeong Festival (KR)


Rita Ueda (Canada) Birds Calling…From the Canada in You *** (2022) 
for shō, sheng/suona & orchestra
I. Phoenix Flies Over the Ocean of Dreams
II. Birds Canada
III. Danger!
IV. From the Canada in You
*** Toronto Premiere, originally commissioned by the Azrieli 
    Foundation, recognizing Rita Ueda as the recipient of the 2022 Azrieli Music Prize
 for New Canadian Music.

Thursday March 28th, 2024 | Koerner Hall 

Concert: 8PM | Pre-concert talk: 7:15PM

Alex Pauk | Conductor
Aaron Schwebel | Violin
Wesley Shen | Harpsichord
Mark Fewer | Violin


Max Richter (United Kingdom) The Four Seasons Recomposed (2012) 
I. Spring 
II. Summer 
III. Autumn 
IV. Winter
György Ligeti (Hungary) Continuum (1968)
                                        for solo harpsichord                                    
György Ligeti (Hungary) Concerto for Violin & Orchestra (1990-92) 
I. Vivace luminoso
II. Aria, Hoquetus, Chorale, Andante
III. Intermezzo. Presto
IV. Passacaglia. Lento intenso
V. Appassionato. Agitato molto

Thursday April 25th, 2024 | Koerner Hall
Concert: 8PM | Pre-concert talk: 7:15PM
Alex Pauk | Conductor 
Krisztina Szabo | Mezzo Soprano


R. Murray Schafer (Canada) Adieu Robert Schumann (1976) 
for mezzo soprano & orchestra 
John Adams (United States) Harmonielehre (1985) 
I. First Movement 
II. The Anfortas Wound
III. Meister Eckhardt and Quackie

All programming is subject to change without notice



Royal Conservatory of Music TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

273 Bloor Street West

Individual concert tickets start at: Adult $48; Senior 65+ $45; Under 30 $28; Student $28

Please call (416) 408 0208 or visit

Season Sponsor:

Esprit Orchestra is Canada’s only full-sized orchestra devoted exclusively to performing and promoting new orchestral music. Esprit Orchestra gratefully acknowledges Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Azrieli Foundation, SOCAN Foundation, Ontario Arts Foundation, Toronto Arts Foundation, Business/Arts, The Michael and Sonja Koerner Charitable Foundation, The Mary-Margaret Webb Foundation, Tim & Frances Price, Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, The Hal Jackman Foundation, Power Corporation of Canada, The Max Clarkson Family Foundation, The Amphion Foundation and Anonymous for their generous support.

Media Contact:

Cameron Dubé 

(416) 815-7887