promo image of Pierre Simard

Symphony plays Mozart's most loved piece of music!
Symphony SoundBites – March 22nd

It is an unseasonably warm and sunny February day in Nanaimo – the air smells like spring, and the daffodils are ready to burst into bloom. The world seems to present us with the unlimited potential of new beginnings and Pierre Simard, Artistic Director of VI Symphony, is taking advantage of this energy as he works on developing the next season of programming for his orchestra.

“As a recent arrival from Montreal, I am grateful for the mild winters of Vancouver Island, but I am growing tired of all this ‘liquid sunshine’ we have had lately”, he laughs. As he drives the creative programming towards a fresh and exciting season (his only hint is that we will be hearing music that has never been played by VI Symphony before), he is also working hard to prepare his musicians for the challenging months ahead.

March 22nd brings the return of Symphony SoundBites, a musical Happy Hour. This is a successful addition to the program that combines a shorter, hour-long musical performance with delicious local food! The final Soundbites of the season features the String Orchestra’s rendition of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Schubert’s Death of a Maiden.

We all know how Pierre feels about Mozart – in fact, we suspect he would fill every performance with his music if he thought he could get away with it. He has said “He is the most perfect composer whose music speaks clearly and directly to the heart and soul of any human being.” So it is no surprise that Pierre would have chosen one of his stunning works for strings to open the show.

Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is indisputably one of the composer’s most recognized pieces; it is bright, briskly-paced and very cheerful. Pierre describes it as “a pinnacle of simplicity – but the music is so perfect that there is no room for error by the musicians”. The German title actually translates to “a little serenade”, not “a little night music”, and it’s thought that Mozart actually just recorded in his notes that he had completed this short ditty – it was never meant to be a proper title for the piece.

Regardless, serenades like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik were not intended to be played wistfully under a moonlit window for your unrequited love, but rather joyfully at a social gathering, or even outdoors in a park setting. Serenades in the park were popular in Vienna in Mozart’s day and Pierre likens them to the modern day “flash mob” in that a small band of musicians would gather to play together, draw a crowd for a short while, and then move on to the next locale.

Schubert’s Death and the Maiden is not park setting material; it provides a sharp contrast to Mozart’s little ditty. Pierre is keen to present this work – not only as a beautiful piece of music but also to showcase a composer who is often thought of simply as a songwriter. “He is the prodigy writer who seems to have been popular for writing the same song over and over,” says Pierre, “I wanted to clean up Schubert’s image – he struggled with the string quartet form and really wasn’t overly good at it. But this piece is a masterwork”. It is also quite dark and pessimistic, written by the composer when he was not only gravely ill, but also destitute, friendless and despairing.

The disparity of the two works is a deliberate choice by Pierre who crafted the program “like the theatre masks. In French we have ‘Jean qui rit et Jean qui pleur’ and this is a musical representation of that concept”. Pierre says he often shies away from darker works like Death of a Maiden because Vancouver Island Symphony has such a short season. “I can’t present a gloomy, depressing work one week and balance it with something upbeat like movie themes the next week”, he muses. So he must be clever in his choices – and Soundbites presents an excellent opportunity for an evening of Comedy and Tragedy.

Two masterworks are presented on March 22nd. One is written as an afterthought – not even given a real title. The other was written after much deliberation and pondering of mortality. One is bright and joyful and evokes a room full of light and laughter and friends. The other gives a sense of ponderous doom, sometimes terror – a frenzied flight from the inescapability of death – although there are moments of comfort in this piece as well. Both will be played with expertise and passion by Vancouver Island Symphony’s Orchestra.

As if the music were not enough of a draw, don’t forget that Symphony SoundBites also offers tantalizing appetizers before the early performance (5:30pm) and decadent desserts following the later showing (7:15pm).

Purchase Tickets Online HERE