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

Marianne Trudel & John Hollenbeck: Dédé Java Espiritu
Thursday, April 11


A piano, a drum set, and a thousand ideas. This is the happy and highly creative encounter ofpianist and composer Marianne Trudel with world-renowned drummer and composer John Hollenbeck. An electrifying, fascinating, enveloping duo, Dédé Java Espiritu plunges the listener into an infinite panorama of colours and grooves inspired by nature. Filled with catchy grooves, enchanting melodies, surprising sonorities, and joyous spontaneity, these compositions are rhythmically and melodically arranged to perfection.

Marianne Trudel is a veritable powerhouse in Canada’s jazz scene. She has produced and multiple artistic projects that showcase her considerable skills as well as her keen sense of creativity. Both energetic and passionate, her music covers a wide array of musical interests. Marianne has performed across North America, Europe, and China and has released 10 critically acclaimed recordings as a leader.

John Hollenbeck possesses a playful versatility and a virtuosic wit. Whether putting pen to paper or conjuring spontaneous sound allergic to repetition, he is essentially a musical thinker and is forever seeking to surprise himself and his audiences. John has received five GRAMMY nominations, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is currently a member of the faculty at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

Buy Tickets

Dallas Alexander
Thursday, April 18


Hailing from a rough-and-tumble backwoods upbringing in Fishing Lake Métis Settlement in Northern Alberta, Dallas Alexander weaves his Métis roots with stories amassed over a decade-plus career serving in a tier-one special operations unit in the Canadian military. Dallas serves up a unique sound and country music lovers are in for a gritty-outlaw vibe inspired by music legends Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.

Sponsored by Black Fox Farm & Distillery

Buy Tickets

Abigail Lapell
Friday, April 19

SONGWRITER SERIES • DOORS @ 7:30pm • SHOW @ 8:30pm

Toronto songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Lapell returns with Anniversary, an evocative collection of original love songs produced by Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker. Lapell’s deft lyrics jostle with love song tropes, grappling with love’s finitude and the irony of how codependency and longing are revered in popular music. Balancing upbeat earworms with elegiac ballads, Anniversary ultimately emerges as an earnest celebration of commitment. A stellar cast of musicians rounds out Lapell’s powerhouse vocals, piano, harmonica and fingerstyle guitar. Anniversary is out May 10, 2024 on Outside Music.

Sponsored by Backyard Living Center

Buy Tickets

Claude Bourbon
Tuesday, April 23


Guitarist Claude Bourbon is known for his amazing performances that are a breathtaking acoustic fusion of blues, jazz, classical, and Spanish guitar. His inimitable style takes the acoustic guitar into uncharted territories, with all five digits on each hand dancing independently but in unison, plucking, picking, and strumming with such speed and precision that his fingers often merge into a blur. Having built up a following of loyal fans all over the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America, Claude returns for his fifth visit to the Bassment.

Sponsored by CFCR

Buy Tickets

Daniel Champagne
Wednesday, April 24


Daniel Champagne lives and breathes live music. Described as “a leading light in acoustic music”, Daniel picked up the guitar as a five-year-old following in the footsteps of his musical father. He began writing songs at 12, training classically throughout his teens and performing wherever he could. At 18 he finished school, turned professional, and hit the road. Since then Daniel has released seven studio albums, toured relentlessly around the globe playing some of the biggest festivals under the sun, and shared stages with the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, INXS, Lucinda Williams, and Judy Collins. His latest Canadian tour will include 56 shows from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland!

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

Buy Tickets

The Mary Ancheta Quartet
Friday, April 26


Keyboardist Mary Ancheta is a Canadian Filipina artist who steps into the spotlight with her genre-bending organic, modern take on jazz and electro-funk. Inspired by the likes of Squarepusher, The Meters, John Scofield, and Prince, Ancheta knows what’s up when it comes to arresting melodies and irresistible grooves. Her quartet includes Trent Otter (drums), Dominic Conway (sax), and Matt Reid (bass). Encompassing her experience in film scoring Ancheta seeks to tap into raw fuelled moments favouring grittiness over perfection.

Sponsored by David’s Distinctive Men’s Apparel

Buy Tickets