Saskatoon StarPhoenix

SSO serves up feast

- By Heather Persson

The key word for Saturday’s Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra concert is “master,” according to conductor and artistic director Earl Stafford.

“It’s a work by a great master performed by a great master,” Stafford says of the guest solo performanc­e planned for — appropriat­ely — the master series program.

Joaquin Valdepenas, the principal clarinetis­t with the Toronto symphony, will join the SSO for Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet in A Major.

Grammy-nominated and Juno-winning, Valdepenas is a star of the classical clarinet scene in Canada and the world.

The company he keeps is an indication of his status as one of Canada’s most acclaimed classical performers. This list includes Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Pinchas Zukerman, Yo Yo Ma and Glenn Gould. Festival appearance­s in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Scotland and Japan have added to his status.

Valdepenas is know for being generous with his talent and knowledge. On the faculty of The Glenn Gould School at The Royal Conservato­ry of Music, many of his former students hold positions in orchestras around the world.

The SSO’s principal clarinetis­t, Margaret Wilson, says having Valdepenas in Saskatoon is an opportunit­y to be educated and to be motivated.

“All clarinet players should come to be inspired,” she said, pointing out the Mozart concerto is her instrument’s signature piece of music.

Stafford says he has planned to serve up a varied musical feast with Saturday’s lineup.

“It’s like having a good meal. You want to mix it up,” he said. “In this case, (Valdepenas) is like the dessert.”

Acting as a zesty starter is Wondrous Light by Edmonton-based composer John Estacio. A colourful piece inspired by the aurora borealis, this virtuosic work has pushed the symphony players, says Stafford. But he says they have enjoyed the challenge and genuinely like the compositio­n.

“It sounds Canadiana, in a western flair kind of way,” Stafford says.

Ending the evening is Enigma Variations by British composer Edward Elgar. Best known for the beautiful Nimrod variation, this is another technicall­y challengin­g work from the late romantic period.

Mystery surrounds this compositio­n, as some say it is a counterpoi­nt to an unnamed, but famous, work. Elgar, however, never told anyone whether this was true and never named the piece of music.

“It’s hiding something,” Stafford explains. “It could be just a beautiful piece of music.”

The master series concert takes place at TCU Place Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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