One Last Music Talk

Eric Paetkau conducting.

At the end of his 7 season, Maestro Eric Paetkau steps down from the role of Music Director. Ahead of his final concert as Music Director, Eric sat down with CEO Mark Turner for one final chance for a music talk.

Exploring the highlights, memorable moments, and special stories never told before the pair reminisce about performances spanning back to Eric’s SSO debut in 2014.

It’s a walk down memory lane and a chance acknowledge Eric’s considerable achievements at the helm of the SSO.

One Last Music Talk is available to view at

A Fond Farewell

Eric’s last concert as Music Director is Mahler 4 on May 7th. While we hope you can join us there, we know it might not be possible to say goodbye in person. If you have a message or memory you wish to share with Eric, enter it in the form below! We will make sure he gets all your kind messages as we celebrate his incredible tenure here at the SSO.

Eric Farewell

Farewell messages and memories for Music Director Eric Paetkau
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Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5

Tchaikovsky is known for sketching out his themes for works. In April 1888 he sketched out the themes for a symphony alongside some ideas for a programme for the first movement;

“Intro: Total submission before Fate, or, what is the same thing, the inscrutible designs of Providence.
Allegro: 1. Murmus, laments, doubts, reproaches against…XXX
2. Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???
A wonderful programme, if only it can be fulfilled.

[for the slow movement] A ray of light… No, there is no hope”

But by June he said he was working on a symphony “without programme” so it is thought that the April sketches are for an unfinished work that was set aside for what would become his 5th Symphony. It is unknown how many of the ideas from the unfinished work were recycled into the piece we hear tonight.

It had been 10 years since the completion of his 4th symphony, and it would be another 5 years before he completed his 6th.

It didn’t take Tchaikovsky 10 years to compose his 5th symphony, he did compose several works in the meantime. But in fact, there is a bit of a gap in his composing due in part to his disastrous marriage. One of the most discussed points when it comes to Tchaikovsky is his sexuality and how he married a woman he barely knew to protect him from the stigma against homosexuality. He was deeply embarrassed by his new wife and avoided his friends, and ultimately her presence as well. He eventually fled his wife so he could live in Paris and his brothers began to pay the wife to stay quiet and stay away.

Not all his relationships with women were as disastrous as his marriage. A wealthy widow by the name of Nadezhda von Meck sent a letter to Tchaikovsky wanting to commission some chamber pieces. From this initial letter a correspondence sprang up and soon they were writing each other about music, love, and life. Von Meck ended up paying him a stipend that would allow Tchaikovsky to quit his day job but there was a caveat: They could never meet.

It was during this patronage, and friendship by correspondence, that the 5th Symphony was born. During the slow movement there is a theme associated, by Tchaikovsky, with the words “O que je t’aime! Oh mon amie!” Because of the feminine “amie” writers have suggested that this was a reference to his beloved patroness.

While many of his friends told Tchaikovsky this was his best work, he had doubts about it and wrote to his brother “I am convinced that this symphony is not a success”. Three months later he wrote to his bother again about the 5th symphony after a performance in Hamburg; ” Best of all, I have stopped disliking the symphony. I love it again”.

Despite Tchaikovsky’s doubts about his Symphony No. 5 its somewhat mixed and critical reviews it has gone on to be one of his most popular works.

It has also been a source of inspiration as Cole Porter used the 4th movement as the foundation for his tune Farewell Amanda, written for the  1949 Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn film Adam’s Rib.


Andrew Balfour

Our concert Tania Miller & Jane Coop opens with Andrew Balfour’s beautiful Pyotr’s Dream for string orchestra. Commissioned and premiered by Tafelmusik in 2019, the work is inspired by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Balfour is an accomplished artist and is also known for his beautiful choral works. It is no wonder that he composes for strings in a way that often reminds us of the human voice.

Of Cree descent, Andrew Balfour is an innovative composer/conductor/singer/sound designer with a large body of choral, instrumental, electro-acoustic and orchestral works, including Take the Indian (a vocal reflection on missing children), Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis RielBawajigaywin (Vision Quest) and Manitou Sky, an orchestral tone poem. His new Indigenous opera, Mishaboozʼs Realm, was commissioned by LʼAtelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and Highlands Opera Workshop.

Andrew is also the founder and Artistic Director of the vocal group Camerata Nova, now in its 22nd year of offering a concert series in Winnipeg. With Camerata Nova, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts”, many with Indigenous subject matter. These innovative offerings explore a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew has become increasingly passionate about music education and outreach, particularly on northern reserves and in inner-city Winnipeg schools where he has worked on behalf of the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Winnipeg school divisions.

In 2007 Andrew received the Mayor of Winnipegʼs Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the City.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24

Between 1784 and 1786, Mozart composed 12 piano concertos and while the number of compositions itself is impressive, what’s even more impressive is the fact that they don’t all sound the same.

His 24th piano concerto was finished only 3 weeks after his 23rd. Unlike his other piano concertos, No. 24 uses the largest orchestra and includes both oboes and clarinets. It is also one of only 2 Mozart piano concertos written in a minor key.

One of the reasons Mozart was able to finish and perform his 24th concerto so quickly after the completion of the 23rd might have something to do with the fact that he didn’t write out the pianist part completely.

Since Mozart conducted the work from the piano and performed the piano part himself he probably didn’t feel the need to write out the complete part, and there is some speculation that his first performance was partially improvised.

If you are ever in London, England, and have the opportunity to visit the Royal College of Music, you might get a chance to see the original score for Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. While looking at the handwritten score you can see that the orchestral parts are written out clearly the solo part is incomplete. Sometimes Mozart only wrote the outer parts of passages of scales or broken chords. You can also see some last-minute changes and additions that were made by the composer. There are no tempo markings and there is the occasional notation error in the score, which musicologist Friedrich Blume attributed to Mozart having “obviously written in great haste and under internal strain”.

Apparently, Beethoven and fellow composer/pianist Johann Baptist Cramer attended a performance of this concerto. Beethoven is said to have exclaimed “Cramer! Cramer! We shall never be able to do anything like that!”


“I wrote Tenebrae as a consequence of witnessing two contrasting realities in a short period of time in September 2000. I was in Israel at the start of the new wave of violence that is still continuing today, and a week later I took my son to the new planetarium in New York, where we could see the Earth as a beautiful blue dot in space. I wanted to write a piece that could be listened to from different perspectives. That is, if one chooses to listen to it “from afar”, the music would probably offer a “beautiful” surface but, from a metaphorically closer distance, one could hear that, beneath that surface, the music is full of pain. I lifted some of the haunting melismas from Couperin’s Troisieme Leçon de Tenebrae, using them as sources for loops, and wrote new interludes between them, always within a pulsating, vibrating, aerial texture. The compositional challenge was to write music that would sound as an orbiting spaceship that never touches ground. After finishing the composition, I realized that Tenebrae could be heard as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript in which the appearances of the voice singing the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (from Yod to Nun, as in Couperin) signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section, built around a single, repeated word: Jerusalem.”

– Osvaldo Golijov

How Slow the Wind

Osvaldo Goligov’s How Slow the Wind for soprano and string quartet has text adapted from two Emily Dickinson poems.

The original, and short, texts read:

How slow the Wind —
how slow the sea —
how late their Fathers be!

Is it too late to touch you, Dear?
We this moment knew—
Love Marine and Love terrene—
Love celestial too—

Goligov wrote How Slow the Wind in response to the death of his friend Mariel Stubrin. He writes, ‘I had in mind one of those seconds in life that is frozen in the memory, forever-a sudden death, a single instant in which life turns upside down, different from the experience of death after a long agony.’ The piece was commissioned by Cecilia Wasserman, in memory of her late husband Herb, for Close Encounters with Music and was first performed in their Seiji Ozawa Hall concert of May 5, 2001, by Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Toby Appel and Justine Chen, violins; Kenji Bunch, viola, and Yehuda Hanani, cello.

and all the days were purple poetry and translations

Alex Weiser’s and all the days were purple features a collection of such gems in Yiddish and English from poets Anna Margolin, Edward Hirsch, Rachel Korn, Abraham Sutzkever, and Mark Strand. The cycle is bookended with two songs setting Anna Margolin poems that act as a kind of prelude and postlude. Each Anna Margolin poem reflects on life from the perspective of being after or outside of it. Instrumental sections separate these two songs from the four others, which reflect on life from within its tumult, longing, beauty, and difficulty.

I. Mayn Glik (My Joy) | מײַן גליק

אַננאַ מאַרגאָלין

:געװען איז אפֿשר דאָס מײַן גליק
פֿילן װי דײַנע אויגן
.האָבן זיך פֿאַר מיר געבויגן

:ניין, געװען איז דאָס מײַן גליק
גיין שװײַגנדיק הין און הער
.מיט דיר איבערן סקװער

:ניין, ניט דאָס, ניט דאָס, נאָר הער
װען איבער אונדזער פֿרייד
.פֿלעגט שמייכלענדיק זיך אײַנבויגן דער טויט

,און אַלע טעג זײַנען געװען פּורפּורן
.און אַלע שװער



Anna Margolin, Translation by Shirley Kumove

Perhaps this was my happiness: to feel how your eyes
bowed down before me.

No, rather this was my happiness: to go silently back and forth across the square with you.

No, not even that, but listen:
how over our joy
there hovered the smiling face of death.

And all of the days were purple and all were hard.

III. I was never able to pray

I Was Never Able To Pray
Edward Hirsch

Wheel me down to the shore
where the lighthouse was abandoned and the moon tolls in the rafters.

Let me hear the wind paging through the trees and see the stars flaring out, one by one,
like the forgotten faces of the dead.

I was never able to pray,
but let me inscribe my name in the book of waves

and then stare into the dome
of a sky that never ends
and see my voice sail into the night.

IV. Benkshaft (Longing) | בענקשאַפֿט

רחל קאָרן

,ס′זענען מײַנע חלומות אַזוי פֿול מיט בענקשאַפֿט
אַז ס′שמעקט אַיעדן אינדערפֿרי
מײַן לײַב מיט דיר ־
און ס′טרינקט צו פּאַמעלעך אויף מײַן ציינפֿאַרקלעמטער ליפּ
,דער איינציקער סימן פֿון דערשטיקטן טרויער
.אַ טר ָאפּן בלוט

און ס′גיסן שוין איבער די שעהען, װי כּוסות
,איינע אין דער צװייטער
די האָפֿענונג, װי טײַערן װײַן ־
,אַז דו ביסט נישט װײַט
אַז אָט, אַיעדע רגע
.קענסטו קומען, קומען, קומען


Rachel Korn, Translation by Ruth Whitman

My dreams are so full of longing
that every morning
my body smells of you –
and on my bitten lip there slowly dries the only sign of suffering,

a speck of blood.

And the hours like goblets pour hope, one into the other,
like expensive wine:
that you’re not far away,

that now, at any moment, you may come, come, come.

V. Poezye (Poetry) | פּאָעזיע

אברהם סוצקעװער

אַ טונקל פֿיאָלעטע פֿלוים
,די לעצטע אויפֿן בוים
,דין־הײַטלדיק און צאַרט װי אַ שװאַרצ ַאפּל
װאָס האָט בײַ נאַכט אין טוי געלאָשן
,ליבע, זעונג, צ ַאפּל
און מיטן מאָרגן־שטערן איז דער טוי
געװאָרן גרינגער ־־
דאָס איז פּאָעזיע. ריר זי אָן אַזוי
.מען זאָל ניט זען קיין סימן פֿון די פֿינגער


Abraham Sutzkever, Translation by Chana Bloch

A dark violet plum,
the last one on the tree,
thin-skinned and delicate as the pupil of an eye, that in the dew at night blots out
love, visions, shivering,
and then at the morning star the dew
grows weightless:
That is poetry. Touch it so lightly
that you don’t leave a fingerprint.

VI. Lines for Winter

Lines for Winter
Mark Strand

for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow. Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs that you love what you are.

VIII. Mir zaynen gegangen durkh teg (We Went Through the Days) | מיר זײַנען געגאַנגען דורך טעג

אַננאַ מאַרגאָלין

.מיר זײַנען געגאַנגען דורך טעג װי דורך שטורעם־דורכציטערטע גערטנער
.געבליט און גערײַפֿט און געאיבט זיך אין שפּילן מיט לעבן און טויט
.כמאַרע און ברייטקייט און טרוים איז געװעזן אין אונדזערע װערטער
און צװישן פֿאַרעקשנטע ביימער אין זומערדיק־רוישנדע גערטנער
.האָבן מיר זיך פֿאַרצװײַגט אין איין איינציקן בוים

,און אָװנטן האָבן געשפּרייט זיך מיט שװערע פֿאַרטונקלטער בלויקייט
,מיטן שמערצלעכן גלוסטן פֿון װינטן און פֿאַלנדע שטערן
,מיטן בלאָנדזשענדן לאַשטשענדן שײַן איבער צוקנדע גראָזן און בלעטער
און מיר האָבן פֿאַרװעבט זיך אין װינט, אײַנגעז ַאפּט זיך אין בלויקייט
.און געװען װי די גליקלעכע חיות און װי קלוגע און שפּילנדע געטער


Anna Margolin, Translation by Shirley Kumove

We went through the days as through storm-tossed gardens. Blossoming, maturing; mastering the game of life and death. Clouds, vastness, and dreams were in our words.
Among stubborn trees in a rustling summer garden

we fused into a single tree.

Evenings spread their deeply darkened blue,
with the aching desire of winds and falling stars,
with shifting, caressing glow of fluttering leaves and grasses, we wove ourselves into the wind, merged with the blueness like happy creatures and clever, playful gods.


An Announcement from Music Director Eric Paetkau

It’s hard to believe that I’m enjoying my seventh season as Music Director of the SSO. I’ve had so many unforgettable experiences and memorable moments over the years. Not only has the organization as a whole been incredible (the musicians, Mark Turner and the whole staff, the Board) but the welcome and warmth Karen and I received from the audience, the city, and the community has been special. And that’s why it’s not easy to say that I’ve decided to move on from the SSO at the end of this season and hand over the musical reins of this wonderful orchestra

Eric Paetkau conducting. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as an organization over the years and how we’ve been an innovative force in the Canadian music scene. Some highlights have been the many Saskatchewan and Canadian musicians and music we’ve featured, our growing presence in the community, and simply daring to try new things and making them work. Part of this is creative momentum and I strongly believe new ideas and fresh perspectives are paramount to artistic growth. That’s why I’m very excited in passing the torch to new musical leaders and seeing how they contribute to the future of the SSO.

We’ve already been seeing fresh faces on the podium in the last year and I’m delighted to see many more this coming season. I’m making this announcement now to ensure a smooth transition and for everyone (orchestra, audience, and community) to experience what great things are in store for the orchestra moving forward. Thanks to all of the hard work from everyone involved, the SSO is in a prime position for an exciting future.

But I’m not done yet!  I’m excited for the Brahms Requiem this month and then officially saying goodbye in May. I look forward to my last season and continuing to experience not only this great orchestra but the wonderful city of Saskatoon and its incredibly warm and inviting people.

Thank you Saskatoon and see you soon!
Eric Paetkau