Ottawa Citizen

NACO to embark on tour of Quebec

Eight- concert, 60- event tour to cost $ 525,000

- BY STEVEN MAZEY

After taking their show on the road to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchew­an and the Atlantic provinces in recent years, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and conductor Pinchas Zukerman are about to head next door for a tour of Quebec.

The tour, Nov. 11 to 20, will include eight concerts and 60 educationa­l events that will include student matinees, coaching for student musicians, and visits by Quebec- born musicians to their home communitie­s to talk about music and work with student players.

The NAC announced the $ 525,000 tour yesterday, after a concert for students by the orchestra and conductor Boris Brott at Gatineau’s Maison de la culture. The concert included an appearance by Mozart, played by Ottawa actor Peter Duschenes, who will co- host student matinees in Quebec.

Zukerman will conduct the orchestra in concerts in Chicoutimi ( Nov. 12), Quebec City ( Nov. 14), Trois- Rivières ( Nov. 18) and Montreal ( Nov. 19). Chicoutimi native Jean- Philippe Tremblay, the NACO’s former apprentice conductor, will conduct two student matinees in Chicoutimi Nov. 13. Brott, the orchestra’s principal youth and family conductor, will conduct two student matinees at Domaine Forget in St. Irénée Nov. 16.

The tour repertoire will include Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Mozart’s Violin concerto No. 3, with Zukerman as soloist. In one of his rare forays into Canadian music, Zukerman will conduct the NACO in Quebec composer Jacques Hétu’s Symphony No. 3. Zukerman conducted the piece as a guest conductor of the NACO’s tour of Europe in 1990, and it’s the only Canadian piece he is scheduled to conduct in the current season. The orchestra will perform the Hétu symphony at the NAC in a pre- tour concert Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, when Zukerman will also perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. He last performed the Mozart piece at the NAC in 2003.

“ To hear this orchestra play Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 makes me very proud and I’m looking forward to sharing this with audiences in Quebec,” Zukerman said in a statement. “ I’m also delighted to be featuring Jacques Hétu’s Symphony No. 3, a piece I have long admired.”

Citizen music critic Richard Todd is not a fan of Zukerman’s Mozart performanc­es, but Todd praised the performanc­e of the Brahms symphony earlier this season, saying “ the conductor had the big picture wonderfull­y in focus and the orchestra delivered the goods with beautiful, responsive playing.”

NAC officials are undoubtedl­y hoping the tour generates some good PR for Zukerman and the federal institutio­n.

Last season, Zukerman’s surprise five- month sabbatical and remarks about NACO musicians in a U. S. newspaper led to embarrassi­ng national headlines about the strained relationsh­ip between the maestro and the musicians. The NAC recently hired profession­al facilitato­rs to try to improve the atmosphere backstage.

Even Zukerman’s critics, however, have said he deserves praise for expanding the orchestra’s educationa­l work. In Quebec, educationa­l projects will include master classes, with Zukerman and orchestra musicians, for advanced music students. Musicians will coach student orchestras and visit schools in small groups to perform and talk about music. There will be clinics for music teachers, and youth choirs in the various communitie­s will perform in the lobby before orchestra concerts.

The NAC’s resource kit on Vivaldi for elementary school teachers, including a recording by the orchestra and suggestion­s for activities and projects, will be distribute­d to all 8,650 elementary schools in Quebec.

A tour website for students, NACOtour. ca, will include educationa­l activities, web journals and a photo log. Emmanuel Thouin, a student from the Conservato­ire de musique de Gatineau, will travel with the orchestra as the official tour blogger, posting daily reports in English and French on the site.

For some NACO musicians, the tour will be a homecoming. Violinist Manuela Milani and assistant principal bassist Marjolaine Laroche, both of Chicoutimi, will work with students in their hometown, as will double bassist Murielle Bruneau in Trois Rivières. Graduates of McGill University, including violinist Susan Rupp and trombonist Donald Renshaw, will return to McGill for a question- and- answer session with students there.

The orchestra has toured nationally and internatio­nally with Zukerman in recent years. In an unusual move, the NAC recently announced it has postponed an Asian tour from 2007 to 2009 because it was unable to raise sufficient funds. Orchestra managing director Christophe­r Deacon said officials decided to postpone after realizing there would be a funding shortfall of more than $ 500,000.

NACO tours have become more expensive under Zukerman, partly because he has expanded the orchestra. The NACO was created as a classicals­ized ensemble of 46 players ( about half the size of the Montreal and Toronto Symphonies), partly to make touring easier and more affordable than it is for larger orchestras.

The number of full- time NACO players is now 50, and there are more than a dozen part- time musicians. Zukerman sometimes adds extra players on top of that for performanc­es of bigger repertoire. For the tour of Quebec, the orchestra will have 61 players. The orchestra also travels with a bigger support staff than it once did, because of the staff needed to run and oversee the educationa­l projects.

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