Vancouver Island Symphony principal oboist Geronimo Mendoza is the featured soloist for the ensemble’s upcoming performance. (Photo supplied)

Vancouver Island Symphony celebrates 25th birthday with Port Theatre concert

Principal oboist Geronimo Mendoza performs as guest soloist

The Vancouver Island Symphony is celebrating its 25th birthday with a concert at the Port Theatre on Feb. 15.

Playing on the 25-year theme, the program, Celebrating 25, features Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, op. 25 and Joseph Haydn’s Symphony no. 25 in C major. Among the other compositions are Samuel Barber’s Canzonetta for Oboe and Strings and Bohuslav Martinu’s Oboe Concerto, the oboe being the instrument of conductor Pierre Simard and VIS CEO Margot Holmes.

Principal oboist Geronimo Mendoza will be the evening’s guest soloist for the Barber and Martinu pieces. It’s his first time taking on that role and he’s looking forward to showing off the range of the instrument. It’s also his first time playing those pieces with an orchestra.

“This is my first-plus year as a principal of the orchestra, which was very exciting for me, particularly. And then now with the opportunity to be showcased as a soloist, I couldn’t be any happier,” he said. “Especially on such an important moment for the orchestra. So it’s very meaningful for me.”

Canzonetta comes from the Italian word for ‘song’ and Mendoza said the Barber piece is a song-like composition.

“It uses a lot of dissonances on the harmony, so there will be a long harmonic preparation as they will eventually lead into a small harmonic clash where there will be a dissonance and then it will relax afterwards,” he said. “So it has all this tension of preparation and then relaxation.”

Mendoza said the Martinu concerto, written in 1955, is a “new classic” that’s increasingly becoming a part of standard oboe repertoire.

“It’s a piece that has a clash of styles,” he said. “There’s lots of influences from, for example, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of modern, a little bit of traditionally European folk songs. So it’s a very interesting piece.”

He said the concerto explores the instrument’s entire range, in terms of low-to-high notes as well as its stylistic flexibility and character.

“Sometimes it shows a little bit more anger or more passionate moments that could be loud and screamy, but sometimes it returns to a more lyrical or more contemplating harmony,” he said.

Mendoza said the concerto concludes in festive fashion suiting the theme of the evening.

“The third movement of the concerto is definitely a big party,” he said. “A big dance where the orchestra and the oboe will get to interact with each other and at the end will have this very quick, very fast dance full of energy that I think is perfect for celebrating.”

WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Celebrating 25 at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. General admission $48 and $56, $22 for students. Available at the Port Theatre box office and online.

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