Artsfile review: a triple world premiere of ballet and music at NAC’s Encount3rs

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The National Ballet’s Guillaume Côté and composer Kevin Lau

It isn’t often I get to feel like my critic predecessors in 1880s Vienna or pre-First World War Paris. But on Thursday night, the NAC presented three brand-new, half-hour Canadian ballets, each with its own orchestral score by a leading Canadian composer.

Co-presented by NACO and Cathy Levy at NAC Dance as part of Canada 150, Encount3rs packed the kind of “major cultural happening” thrill rarely seen in Ottawa, but becoming more common since Alexander Shelley arrived in town. If last year’s Life Reflected project established the new music director as someone open to engaging with his community, Encount3rs proved that Shelley’s commitment to interdisciplinary work and creation is more than a passing fancy.

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Artsfile review: Karina Gauvin delights in all-Purcell program

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As one of the most acclaimed Handel and Mozart opera specialists of the day, soprano Karina Gauvin is accustomed to performing for full houses in London, Paris, Madrid, Vienna and Amsterdam. If she was disappointed at the rather thin audience that turned out to hear her at Dominion-Chalmers on April 10, she didn’t show it, singing her heart out with her usual vivacious, seductive charm.

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Artsfile review: Thirteen Strings’ St. Matthew Passion, plus Mozart at NACO.

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The Denial of Peter, Gerard Seghers

On Good Friday, Thirteen Strings and Seventeen Voyces joined forces to present Bach’s monumental St. Matthew Passion at Dominion-Chalmers. The performance was distinguished by magnificent orchestral playing and choral singing, wildly incompatible soloists, and some quasi-heretical liberties in presentation.

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Artsfile review: OSO takes on Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony

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Comforting and grave: Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo

You certainly can’t call Alain Trudel and the Ottawa Symphony unambitious, picking Mahler’s sublime but enormous Symphony No. 2, the ‘Resurrection’, to close their 2016-17 season Monday night. And if they didn’t completely slay this 500-pound heavenly gorilla of a work, they did an impressive job of taming it.

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Artsfile review: Louis Lortie plays the complete Chopin Études and Preludes

Many classical artists have a musical signature: pieces they have played for so long, so often and with such consummate mastery that their name becomes forever associated with the work. What’s more rare is when a musician decides to retire those same compositions that made their career. When it happens, those last performances take on the weight and poignancy of a valediction.

The incomparable Louis Lortie is on a Canadian tour performing the complete Chopin Études and Preludes. He has said it’s likely the last time he’ll ever play those works in their entirety. You have to respect Lortie for saying he wants to quit while he can still do this feat of stamina and athleticism justice. But to hear him on Friday in Southam Hall play these sets not only with all the facility and razzle-dazzle of his youth, but with the added bonus of mature expression and lived-in soul, made his farewell almost tragic.

Read the full review on Artsfile.