The Vancouver Island Symphony is kicking off its 2017-18 season on Saturday (Oct. 21) at the Port Theatre with a trio of Russian compositions.
Dubbed A Fiery Opening, the show begins with a fanfare written by artistic director Pierre Simard to signal his 10th year leading the band and continues with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, op. 26, Shostakovich’s Ballet Suite No. 1 and Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite. Simard’s program indulges his longstanding appreciation of Russian composers.
The concert will feature a guest appearance by Corey Hamm, University of British Columbia associate professor of piano, chamber music and piano literature. Hamm will join the symphony for the Prokofiev piece. Hamm recently won awards for Best Classical Recording from the Western Canada Music Awards and Spotify for his 2014 recording of The People United will Never be Defeated by American composer Frederic Rzewski.
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This is Hamm’s first performance with the Vancouver Island Symphony, although he has played with some of the group’s members, including Simard, who conducted Hamm in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Hamm said Simard reached out to him to be a part of A Fiery Opening.
“Pierre wrote me an e-mail and just said, ‘Corey, would you like to play with our orchestra?’ and of course I would, obviously, and we talked about repertoire and on the list was Prokofiev’s Third Concerto and I jumped at the chance,” Hamm said.
“All the pieces would have been a thrill to play with the orchestra but Prokofiev’s Third, I can barely wait to play that piece again.”
Hamm is enthusiastic about performing the Prokofiev number with the symphony. He said it’s a composition he played a lot in his youth, and said “it’s just a thrill for the pianist and orchestra and for the audience.”
“The piece has so much variety in it, there are so many different moods,” he said.
Hamm said the conductor was known for his ballets and his pieces share a rhythmic component. He said Prokofiev’s Third suits the evening’s fiery theme.
“The ending is super exciting, it’s really one of the most fun endings to play,” he said of the composition.
“The piece of course is full of big, whiz-bang piano pyrotechnics and lots of intricate ensemble work between the orchestra and the piano but it’s typical for Prokofiev in that it has a lot of biting sort of sarcastic material but also beautiful, lyrical, lush, romantic tunes.”
WHAT’S ON … Vancouver Island Symphony presents A Fiery Opening at the Port Theatre, Saturday (Oct. 21) at 7:30 p.m. Adult admission ranges from $33 to $54, $18 for students, $5 for high school students. Pre-concert talk with conductor Pierre Simard at 6:30 p.m.