The Strathcona Symphony Orchestra’s tuba player

Campbell River Youth orchestra guests with Strathcona Symphony

The Russians Are Coming samples well-known works from the golden age of Russian classical composers

The Strathcona Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) first concert of the year, The Russians Are Coming, celebrates the titans of Russian composers who have become staples in the modern world’s classical music repertoire.

But why, you may ask, a Russian programme?

“This concert,” says Conductor Pippa Williams, “came about as our tribute to the Canadian Winter Olympic Team as they make their way to Sochi next month. They are going to a country that may be as strange to them, as it is to some of us. The SSO wanted to bridge some of that unfamiliarity by playing melodies that we all know but may not have known that they come from classical Russian composers. The Russians Are Coming is our opportunity to explore part of the Russian music tradition—a powerful soundscape rich with musical textures and exotic images. Moreover, it is a chance to discover something about ourselves and how Russian compositions have flavoured our North American culture.”

The Russians Are Coming samples well-known works from the golden age of Russian classical composers such as Glière, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Tchaikovsky, and Mussorgsky who based their works on Imperial Russian history and folk tales.

Early in the last century Russia produced a new wave of Russian composers, including Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Khachaturian who projected Russian classical music into the 20th century.

The SSO also features a performance by the Campbell River Youth Orchestra (CRYO) who will play  Kalinka (1860) by the composer and folklorist Ivan Petrovich Larionov. CRYO conductor Blaine Waldbauer, describes the youth orchestra as “a feeder group” for the SSO. Comprised of young musicians from 9 to 16 years old, the CRYO has 23 members.

“Our goal is to provide musical training for Vancouver Island youth—especially in strings—so they can use the youth orchestra as a stepping stone to higher musical forums.”

So much history, so varied a program, nine Russian composers, 13 memorable melodies— The Russians Are Coming concert is sure to surprise, delight and banish January grey skies.

Creating a comfortable ambiance by seating their audience at tables, the SSO also offers a cash bar as well as Russian delicacies. Performances are in Courtenay in the Native Sons Hall: Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. Doors are open 30 minutes prior to the concert. Tickets for The Russians Are Coming are $15 and are available from Blue Heron Books, and Laughing Oyster Books, or at the door. For reservations or for more information, call 250-331-0158. Campbell

Hailed for his “breathtaking virtuosity and an intelligent sense of precisely what brings music to life” (Albuquerque Journal), Swedish-American pianist Elias-Axel Pettersson is quickly establishing himself as a formidable soloist and chamber musician.

The late Ralph Berkowitz wrote “…he is a rare musician who can project his ideas from the piano directly into the hearts and minds of his audience.”

Pettersson is a Mason & Hamlin Concert Artist and has garnered prizes on the national and international level.  He has been heard on national (USA) radio through KHFM and KUNM.

His performance of Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 was highly praised, and his continued work with violinist David Felberg and Sunday Chatter (New Mexico) has won him accolades. Pettersson performed the world premiere of New Mexican composer Michael Mauldin’s Petroglyph for Piano (2011) and champions works by contemporary composers such as Arnaud Allary, Alan Belkin, Todd Coleman, Alvin Curran, Drea Pressley Tischhauser, Ben Shemie, and Altin Volaj.

Pettersson has collaborated with various artists, including Krzysztof Zimowski, David Felberg, Guillaume Tardif, Nune Melikyan, Henk Guittart, Emmanuelle Da Silva, and Cantor Josh Perlman. In 2008, he formed Duo Giocoso with French violinist Roland Arnassalon; in 2013, they joined forces with cellist Noémie Raymond-Friset, creating Trio Vega. Pettersson’s discography on Axel Records includes two solo albums and one chamber album.

Pettersson is a committed pedagogue and has taught at the Université de Montréal and University of Maryland in addition to giving master classes across North America. He holds a D.Mus. from the Université de Montréal and has studied with Paul Stewart, Douglas Humpherys, Larissa Dedova, and Maribeth Gunning. He has also played for André Watts, Sergei Babayan, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Arnaldo Cohen, Dina Joffe, and the Guarneri String Quartet.

While in town, Pettersson will be conducting master classes with local piano students.   For information, please contact Shelley Roberts at (250) 923-7658.

On Saturday, Jan. 25,  Pettersson will perform at the Trinity Presbyterian Church (on Simms Road) at 2:30 p.m. in a concert sponsored by the Campbell River Friends of Music.  His program will consist of music from Mozart, Gershwin, Liszt and Chopin.  Tickets can be purchased by calling (250) 923-6268, or at the Visitor Information Center in Campbell River and can also be purchased at the door:  $20 (adults) and $10 (students).