Eric Paetkau, music director
Thomas Yu, piano
Maestro Eric Paetkau has created a special program that explores a cross-section of thrilling music. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite is a special music treat to pair alongside the captivating rhythms of Vincent Ho’s Earthbeat.
Pianist Thomas Yu returns home to Saskatoon for a special concerto performance. Saint-Saën’s fifth piano concerto is lovingly called the Egyptian because of the exotic sounds created by the pianist, particularly in the second movement.
We’re thrilled to feature the music of Nicole Lizée on this concert. Nicole grew up in south-west Saskatchewan, and has gone on to be one of the greatest Canadian composers of her generation. Her music is bold and brave, and her Behind The Sound of Music takes us on a journey beyond the sounds of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic to somewhere entirely new and wonderful.
Thank you to our sponsor, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, for making this concert possible.
Earthbeat – Vincent Ho*
Piano Concerto No. 5, “Egyptian” – Camille Saint-Saëns
Behind the Sound of Music – Nicole Lizée*
for orchestra and glitch
Pulcinella Suite – Igor Stravinsky
*denotes Canadian composer
Thomas Yu is one of the most recognized amateur musicians in the world. He has redefined what it means to be an amateur pianist, having performed with BBC Orchestra of Wales, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre Symphonique du Conservatoire de Paris, to name a few. He has appeared as a guest soloist at Berliner Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Munich Gasteig, BBC Hoddinott Hall, Théâtre du Châtelet and Salle Gaveau in Paris, Symphony Hall in Chicago, Hakuju Hall in Tokyo, as well as Roy Thomson Hall, National Arts Centre and Glenn Gould Studio in Canada. He continues to delight audiences across five continents while maintaining a full-time career as a periodontist.
In 2016, Yu was the unanimous winner of the prestigious 7th Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition in Texas, taking home the gold medal as well as Press and Audience Awards. Ten years earlier, he also swept the Paris International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs. In the span of this decade, Yu also won the 2015 CBC’s Piano Hero, 2014 Honens Pro Am Competition (Calgary), 2012 International Amateur Piano Competition (Manchester), 2010 B&B International Piano Competition (New York), and 2009 Bösendorfer International Piano Competition (Vienna). Yu is also a winner of several national competitions, including the Canadian Music Competition and the Canadian Federation of Music Teacher’s Association Piano Competition.
In addition to his musical pursuits, Dr. Yu obtained his DMD with Great Distinction from the University of Saskatchewan. He then completed a General Practitioner Residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto before obtaining his Master Degree in Periodontics at the University of Toronto. He owns a busy private practice in Calgary, teaches at the Foothills Medical Hospital, and is a sought-after lecturer across Canada.
Yu has been featured in Pianist Magazine, CBC TV, Global TV, CTV, Bravo!, Slipped Disc, TV5 and France 2 television. He has also recorded with CBC Radio, BBC Radio, Radio France and Radio Classique. Yu has received accolades from two Governor Generals of Canada, a Lietuenant Governor of Saskatchewan as well as Mayors of Calgary and Toronto. The University of Saskatchewan named Yu as one of the school’s top 100 most influential alumni of the past century. Famed photographer V. Tony Hauser has included him in multiple exhibitions featuring prominent Canadian musicians such as Pinkas Zuckerman, Angela Hewitt, James Ehnes and Jan Lisiecki. Thomas was also named to the Class of 2014 in Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40.
His passion for music was influenced by his two private teachers and mentors, Bonnie Nicholson in Saskatoon, and Marc Durand at the Glenn Gould School/Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Yu has also worked with Leion Fleisher, Julian Martin, Emmanuel Ax, Robin Harrison and Marek Jablonski. As a laureate of the 2nd Canadian Chopin Competition, Yu also competed in the 15th International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland.
Earthbeat – Ho*
Earthbeat was written as the last movement of the “True North: Symphonic Ballet”, commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The work was inspired by the pow-wow traditions of Canada’s First Nations community. Much thanks to pow-wow musician and expert Hal Eagletail of the Tsuu T’ina Nation, I was introduced to the music of his community, its history, and the cultural importance it serves. It is through such collective dances and music-making that brings one closer to the Earth’s “heartbeat” while bringing unity within the community. From my discussions with Hal, I learned that this “heartbeat” is a universal theme found in all civilizations, and for me as a composer I should find a way to express it within my own musical language.
To reflect Canada’s history and the people of the Indigenous, Hal and I decided that the inclusion of the Métis traditional piece “Red River Jig” during the climax of this work was an important way of acknowledging the nation’s history in musical form. It is a piece that has its origins from the traditional dances of the First Nations, French, English, Scots, and Orcadian people.
I humbly thank Hal Eagletail and all of the pow-wow musicians I met and learned from during the creation of this work, and to choreographer Yukichi Hattori whose original narrative of the “True North Project” provided the initial inspiration.
Piano Concerto No. 5, “Egyptian” – Saint-Saëns
he Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103, popularly known as The Egyptian, was Camille Saint-Saëns’ last piano concerto. He wrote it in 1896, 20 years after his Fourth Piano Concerto, to play himself at his own Jubilee Concert on May 6 of that year. This concert celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his début at the Salle Pleyel in 1846.
This concerto is nicknamed “The Egyptian” for two reasons. Firstly, Saint-Saëns composed it in the temple town of Luxor while on one of his frequent winter vacations to Egypt, and secondly, the music is among his most exotic, displaying influences from Javanese and Spanish as well as Middle-eastern music. Saint-Saëns said that the piece represented a sea voyage.
Saint-Saëns himself was the soloist at the première, which was a popular and critical success.
Pulcinella Suite – Stravinsky
As is well known, Stravinsky fashioned his ballet, Pulcinella (1919-20) after music of Giambattista Pergolesi (1710-36). He was originally not enthusiastic about using such source material but acquiesced to the wishes of the persuasive impresario Serge Diagilev. In the end, the composer drew on some Trio Sonatas, three operas–Lo Frate ‘nnamorato, Il Flaminio, and Adriano in Siria–and other works of Pergolesi. The character Pulcinella was taken from a 1700 manuscript featuring various comic episodes. The ballet was a great success at its May 15, 1920, premiere, and in 1922 Stravinsky decided to extract a Concert Suite, scoring it for the same chamber-sized ensemble. He made minor revisions to the Suite in 1949.
The original ballet score featured eighteen numbers, whereas the Suite is comprised of eight. The latter’s third movement, however, has three sections, and the eighth, two. Thus, the reduction is far less than half: a typical performance of the ballet music would last around forty minutes, and that of the Suite about twenty-five. The vocal parts from the original score, found in the second and eighth movements of the Suite, were eliminated by Stravinsky, their music being assigned to various instruments.
The first movement of the Suite, the Sinfonia, is the most famous. It features a confident, ebullient theme, used for years by Martin Bookspan to introduce his radio program. The rhythmic verve and harmonic twists of this Neo-Classical music is nearly as compelling as the distinctiveness of the theme. The Serenata, that follows, features the lovely tenor solo (taken from Il Flaminio), but is here given to the oboe and other instruments. The third movement is comprised of a Scherzino, Allegro and Andantino, each divulging much color and, once more, great rhythmic interest. The first two sections are based on material in Pergolesi’s Trio Sonata II and the third on the Trio Sonata VIII.
Thus far the five sections correspond to the first five in the ballet. The next, however–the Tarantella–relates to the twelfth movement in the ballet, and is thus based on Pergolesi’s Trio Sonata VII. The Toccata, that follows, corresponds to the fourteenth and, like the Tarantella, features quite jovial music, again with infectious rhythms. The Gavotta con due variazoni and the Duetto, are the counterparts to Nos. 15 and 16 in the ballet score, and the latter features the most humorous music in the score.
The last two sections here, Minuetto and Finale relate to the penultimate and closing movements in the ballet. The Finale features a short rhythmic theme that has also become popular. It sounds as Stravinskyan as any music in the ballet, which might suggest that the composer wanted to cap this heavily-derived score with his individual touch.
Each movement here features different combinations of instruments, as in the ballet score. There has long been discussion regarding how much of the music in Pulcinella is Pergolesi, and how much is Stravinsky. However musicologists answer the question, there is little doubt that even if the music belongs to Pergolesi, the masterpiece belongs to Stravinsky. The composer would go on to write other works along this same line, including Le Baiser de la Fée (1928), after Tchaikovsky.