In September of 2018, Maestro Otto Tausk stepped onto the podium at the historic Orpheum Theatre and commenced his first official performance as the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The musicians and staff delivered the opening salvo in an exciting and ambitious series of musical programs to launch the orchestra’s Centennial Season.

The fall opened with a pair of concerts connecting the past, the present and the future – a theme that was to return throughout the year. The great American soprano Renée Fleming performed Strauss’ Four Last Songs as well as some of her favourite hits from Broadway. Then, Maestro Tausk introduced Vancouver to his Dutch compatriots, the duo pianists Lucas & Arthur Jussen, in the first Masterworks concert.

The VSO’s concert debut took place on January 26th, 1919, so it seemed fitting to mark the actual 100th birthday of the organization with a party like no other. The first ever Day of Music, on January 26, 2019 was the result. Over fourteen thousand people participated in more than one hundred performances across six stages celebrating this momentous occasion. The day opened with a public rehearsal of the VSO in preparation for the evening’s performance in a side-by-side concert with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra. The incredible response to Day of Music underlined the value this city places on its live music, its Symphony, and accessible performances.

The 2018-2019 season closed with the 100th Centennial Celebration Gala. The program, hosted by none other than the great Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, again picked up the theme of past, present and future. A series of video vignettes, created by Jayme Cowley, traced the trajectory of the orchestra over the past 100 years. Two talented graduates of the VSO School of Music, violinist Lucy Wang and cellist Tate Zawadiuk, appeared alongside James Ehnes, with whom the VSO won both the JUNO® and GRAMMY® awards for best classical recording in 2008. The program included favourite selections from Grieg, Bach, Bernstein, and Dvořák, and came to an exciting conclusion as Ehnes soared through the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Works by BC-based composers were also well-represented. Frederick Schipizky’s Aurora Fanfare was written while he was a member of the orchestra’s double bass section and was premiered on a tour of British Columbia by the VSO. Canadian Mosaic, by the pioneering woman composer Jean Coulthard was also featured, alongside the world premiere of Strange Loop, composed by the JUNO® Award-winning composer Jocelyn Morlock, who served as VSO Composer-in-Residence for five years.

Read the Vancouver Sun’s preview of the season here.

Read the Vancouver Classical Music review of the season here.