Sergei Rachmaninoff, composer

Legendary Russian-American composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff left Russia after the Communist revolution of 1917. He was born on April 2, 1873, on a big estate near Novgorod, Russia. From the age of four, Rachmaninoff studied music with his mother; he continued his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and the Moscow Conservatory under the guidance of professors Arensky, Taneyev, and Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninoff’s concert performances were legendary, and he was recognized as a great pianist with unmatched power, emotion and technical excellence. He could reach a twelfth, or an octave and a half, or, for example, from middle C to high G, thanks to his huge hands. Rachmaninoff frequently used musical references from folk ballads, jazz, oriental music, and more into his own pieces. He wrote music with unusually wide chords and intensely romantic melody lines.

Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

In 1934, Sergey Rachmaninoff performed the solo part for the world premiere of his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, in Baltimore, Maryland. With its virtuosity, emotional range, and creative twists on Niccol Paganini’s classic theme, this enduring composition continues to be a favourite of the piano concerto repertoire.

The “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” is written for piano solo and orchestral accompaniment. However, Rachmaninoff personalizes this piece with creative twists by using a pre-existing theme from Paganini’s Violin Caprice No. 24 as the foundation of this composition. This provides thematic material for a hauntingly beautiful melody, that serves as the musical backbone of the entire work.

 The piece is based on the hauntingly beautiful 24th Caprice from Niccolò Paganini’s Caprices for Solo Violin, which provides the thematic material for the variations that follow. Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody is a stunning display of technical brilliance, emotional depth, and musical ingenuity, making it one of the most beloved works in the piano repertoire.



Rachmaninoff’s skill in transforming a musical idea into a variety of moods and emotions, from fun and whimsical to somber and dramatic, is demonstrated by his clever use of the Paganini theme throughout the variations.



Dvorak’s Symphony no. 7

Rachmaninoff writes cryptically on the first page of the manuscript, “This main theme occurred to me upon the arrival at the station of the ceremonial train from Pest in 1884.” Czechs were travelling from Hungary to Prague for a performance at the National Theatre, which was followed by a pro-Czech political demonstration.

The immediate issues of the 1880s had long-standing causes; for centuries, the Czech territories had been governed by the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy, and the Czech people were frequently treated as inferiors within the empire.

Over a low rumbling from the basses, timpani, and horns, the cellos and violas introduce the theme. A brief pastoral horn solo follows. A beautiful theme for flute and clarinets follows, and as it is passed to the violins, it becomes more intense. The opening theme makes a strong comeback at the movement’s climax. Following a dramatic coda, the movement comes to an end with one more appearance of the opening theme.

A calm, hymn-like chorale serves as the opening to the quiet second movement.  A lyrical horn melody appears before taking an abruptly dramatic turn. The primary theme returns in the cellos after a series of powerful, contemplative developments, setting up the violins to lead an emotional passage. The hymn-like chorale from the beginning returns on the oboe over pianissimo, tremolo strings as the movement comes to a close.

The violins begin the third movement with a Czech furiant as the cellos and bassoons simultaneously play a Viennese waltz underneath it. This uneasy dance of two themes sets the tone for the whole work. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for Dvořák’s pursuit of great Czech music employing traditional Austro-German forms.

A furiant is a rapid and fiery Bohemian dance in alternating 2/4 and 3/4 time, with frequently shifting accents; or, in “art music”, in 3/4 time “with strong accents forming pairs of beats”

The finale opens with an ominous melody full of chromatic inflections that give it a Slavic character. This main melody develops into a number of increasingly frenzied march-like themes until a contrasting, lyrical melody appears.The music hurtles toward a rafter-shaking plagal cadence, the chords traditionally used for the word “Amen,” and ends with a resplendent D major chord, offering a glimmer of hope at the end of this intense musical journey.

Antonín Dvořák, composer

Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born in Nelahozeves, near Prague, where he spent the majority of his life. In the late 1850s, he studied music at Prague’s Organ School and played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra through the 1860s.

Dvořák served as the National Conservatory’s director in New York City from 1892 until 1895. Wealthy socialite Jeannette Thurber, who created the Conservatory, desired a renowned composer as director in order to elevate her organization. She wrote to Dvořák, asking him to accept the position, and he agreed, provided she was willing to meet his conditions: talented Native American and African-American students who could not pay tuition must be admitted for free. 

Dvořák became acquaintances with Harry Burleigh, who went on to become a significant African-American composer when he was the Conservatory’s director. Burleigh spent countless hours singing classic American spirituals to Dvořák while the composer educated Burleigh about composition. Burleigh went on to compose settings of these Spirituals which compare favorably with European classical composition.

Dvořák was a colourful character. In addition to music, he had two other particular interests: pigeon breeding and locomotive engines. He finally made his way back to Prague, where he served as the conservatoire’s director from 1901 until his passing in 1904. He was buried in Prague’s Vyšehrad cemetery.

Join us at the Hub

The concert ends, you exit TCU Place, and you’re still brimming with excitement after such a fabulous evening. Where to next?

Cross the street and join us over at the Hub at Holiday Inn!

It’s the perfect place to grab a post-concert drink, and snack, alongside fellow SSO patrons, musicians, and the feature guest artists.

We have complimentary appetizers on a first come first-serve basis!


What’s happening at the Bassment

The Bassment is one of Canada’s premier jazz clubs and provides musicians of all skill levels a venue to showcase their talents in front of a live audience while accessing a variety of professional, concert-grade instruments. The club offers an intimate, personal concert space with a world-class stage for local, national, and international artists.

Here’s a sample of what’s happening next at The Bassment

Creedence Clearwater Revival Revisited featuring Ross Neilsen
Friday, February 2


With over two decades of experience in the music business, Ross Neilsen has played on stages from Montreal to Mexico, all the while acquiring a handsome list of industry accolades. Most comfortable settled in behind a mic performing his own compositions, as well as tunes by some of his favourite songwriters, Ross’ million miles of travel and thousands of performances give him the confidence to feel right at home whenever and wherever he plugs in.

Ross revisits the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival during a night that celebrates the music of one of the greatest bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s. With 14 consecutive Top 10 ten singles, five Top 10 albums, and a performance at the original Woodstock, CCR’s music has stood the test of time and remains as relevant as ever. Ross is joined by Fabian Minnema (guitar), Chris Mason (bass), and Lucas Goetz (drums).

Sponsored by Wright Construction

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The B .C. Read Big Band
Friday, February 9



Possessing a soulful blues rasp and a bag full of great blues tunes, home-town legend B.C. Read has been preaching the gospel of Howlin’ Wolf, B.B King, and Muddy Waters to audiences all over Western Canada for 40 years. Returning to play his annual mid-winter gig at The Bassment, B.C. has lined up his favourite musicians to perform a night of blues classics and originals.

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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The Slocan Ramblers
Sunday, February 11



The reigning champions of Canadian bluegrass, the Slocan Ramblers are back showcasing their unique blend of bluegrass, old-time, and folk. The band’s set list is marked by thoughtful songwriting, lightning fast-instrumentals, and sawdust-thick vocals.

This show will feature the Ramblers at the top of their game playing selections from their three previous releases and their latest album, Up the Hill and Through the Fog. Say hello to your new favourite band!

Sponsored by Northern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Music Society

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Oral Fuentes Reggae Band
Friday, February 16



Oral Fuentes’ musical journey began in his home country of Belize, where he played for many local and national events in the popular Belizean group, Caribbean Jam. Oral and his 9-piece Saskatoon band play an infectious set list of original tunes fusing Reggae and Afro/Latin. Joining Oral are Lucianus Best (keyboards), Dave Nelson (trumpet), Mike Kereiff (trumpet), Claire Anderson (trumpet), Joseph Ashong (percussion), Zender Millar (bass), and Rocky Delis (drums).

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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60 Years of Summer Players: A Musical Theatre Showcase
Saturday, February 17



Embark on a musical journey that looks back on the past 60 years of Saskatoon Summer Players, as well as into where we hope to go next. This extraordinary event promises a show filled with nostalgia, talent, and the magic of musical theatre. Directed by Matt Olson, our cast features a stellar lineup of performers, both seasoned veterans and rising stars, who bring along their talents and passion for performance as we relive iconic moments, beloved characters, and show-stopping numbers that have left an indelible mark on Saskatoon Summer Players’ illustrious history. Get ready to laugh, cry, and cheer for 60 years of spectacular performances!

Presented by Saskatoon Summer Players and The Saskatoon Jazz Society

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

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Super Chikan and Steve Marriner
Friday, February 23


James “Super Chikan” Johnson is the real deal! Based in Clarksdale Mississippi, he builds many of his own guitars. Backed by The Mojo Stars,  Super Chikan brings us an evening of high-energy blues.

Steve needs no introduction. He’s been knocking out audiences for years, on his own and with Monkeyjunk. We are lucky to be featuring Steve for the first time with his own band “Local Electric”.

Presented by the Saskatoon Blues Society

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