$14-million cello to be played on stage with Okanagan Symphony

Symphony launches 60th

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra marks its 60th anniversary with the opening concerts of its 2019/20 season. 

“When we were programming this season, we were looking for variety and diversity,” says music director Rosemary Thomson. “This season has that, but the main thrust is to celebrate our historical connections and shine a spotlight on our own musicians.”

The 'Entitled Legends' concerts refer to the "Bonjour" Stradivarius cello that guest artist Bryan Cheng will be playing when he takes the stage. The cello was built in 1696 and is valued at $14 million.

The instrument's legacy is impressive. As part of the Canada Council’s musical instrument bank, pre-eminent Canadian classical musicians regularly compete for the opportunity to become the steward and performer of an exceptional instrument like this one on a three-year loan.

Guest artist Cheng has been named to the Top 30 Under 30 on CBC's list of classical musicians. Described as owning "a depth of sensitivity and maturity that will secure him a distinctive place in the world of classical music," he will be performing Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor.  

The second half of the opening program will feature the OSO’s new concertmaster, violinist Rachel Kristenson, in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This piece is based on One Thousand and One Nights (also commonly known as Arabian Nights): a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. Scheherazade is the female storyteller of these fantastic tales, with violin solos evoking the beauty and exoticism of distant lands.

Opening the Legends program each evening will be a short piece by Canadian composer John Estacio, entitled Frenergy. Described by Thomson as a "five-minute barn burner," Estacio combined the words 'frenetic' and energy' to describe his rhythmic, percussive composition. 

"I love all three works on this program because they are so visceral - breathtaking in virtuosity and heartbreaking in beauty. One of my favourite moments is near the beginning of the symphonic suite Scheherazade, where Sinbad's Ship is depicted on the high seas and the orchestra is practically swaying from the rhythm of the sea. Thrilling!" enthuses Thomson.

  • Kelowna Community Theatre / Friday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m. Tickets 250-862-2867
  • Penticton Cleland Theatre / Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. Tickets 888-974-9170
  • Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre / Sunday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. Tickets 250-549-7469

Tickets for all shows are also available online at okanagansymphony.com.

A pre-concert chat with Thomson, takes place one hour before each performance.

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