Esprit Orchestra presents: Three

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For Immediate Release – Tuesday, December 12th 2023


TORONTO, ON– Esprit Orchestra’s 41st season continues with THREE, taking place on January 24th, 2024 at Koerner Hall. Comprising works from three of today’s most compelling composers, Music Director Alex Pauk will conduct Esprit in a program spanning diverse and vivid musical worlds; an exploration of Schumann and Carl Jung by Misato Mochizuki; the history of Western opera as observed through the singular lens of Unsuk Chin; and Rita Ueda’s musical portrait of the immigrant experience, as told through Canadian bird calls. Composer Alexina Louie will moderate a free pre-concert talk beginning at 7:15PM.

In collaboration with some of the great orchestras from around the globe, Esprit has co-commissioned and will present the North American Premiere of Operascope, a new orchestral work composed by Unsuk Chin. Tracing the history of opera from Verdi through Messiaen, Chin described the work in the following way, “The work refers to the history of opera. […] it plays with allusions to music history (although not with quotes that are true to the score). The idea of opera as a ‘powerhouse of emotions’ played a role in the writing of this work.” Long champions of Unsuk Chin’s music, this performance of Operascope marks Esprit’s eighth performance of her work and the first co-commission. 

In Nigredo, composer Misato Mochizuki depicts in music Carl Jung’s concepts of “nigredo”; symbolizing the soul’s profound despair before a transformative regeneration, and “albedo”; a transformation akin to the alchemical principle of converting base elements; mercury, lead or copper, into such precious ones as gold and silver. Permeating this work is the music of Robert Schumann in a near subliminal homage, with an offstage piano playing a movement from Carnaval and music boxes twinkling with the melody from Träumerei. Commissioned by the New Japan Philharmonic, this performance marks the North American Premiere

The question, “what is Canadian music?”, prompted composer Rita Ueda to write her work, Birds Calling…From the Canada in You, as the recipient of the 2022 Azrieli Music Prize commission for New Canadian Music. Incorporating a solo shō (Japanese mouth organ), sheng (Chinese mouth organ) and suona (Chinese shawm), these represent the composer’s Japanese-Canadian heritage as well as the Chinese-Canadian community. Situated all around the audience in the balconies of Koerner Hall, the orchestra envelops the audience in a shimmering soundscape of Canadian bird sounds. Reflecting Canada’s diverse and multicultural society, Birds Calling… challenges audiences to consider what it means to settle on land already rich in history; what does it truly mean to be Canadian? Joined by shō player Naomi Sato and sheng/suona player Zhongxi Wu, the pair for whom this work was composed, Esprit will present the Toronto Premiere in a performance supported by the Azrieli Foundation’s Performance Fund.

Wednesday January 24th, 2024 | Koerner Hall

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

Alex Pauk | Conductor
Naomi Sato | Shō
Zhongxi Wu | Sheng & Suona

Misato Mochizuki (Japan) Nigredo * (2009/10/18)
Hommage à Robert Schumann

* North American Premiere


Unsuk Chin (South Korea/Germany) Operascope * (2023) 

* North American Premiere, co-commissioned by the Bayerische Staatsorchester,
  Esprit Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra & Tongyeong Festival

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