Vancouver Island Symphony principal flautist Paolo Bortolussi is the featured soloist for the upcoming concert Discovery: A Tribute to Women Composers at the Port Theatre on Jan. 19. (Photo credit David Lopez)

Vancouver Island Symphony to highlight women composers in Port Theatre show

VIS principal flautist Paolo Bortolussi to serve as featured soloist

The Vancouver Island Symphony is opening 2019 with a program that highlights the work of women composers from the 19th century and the present day.

The concert, Discovery: A Tribute to Women Composers, comes to the Port Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 19. It features work by contemporary composers Joan Tower and Jennifer Higdon of the United States and Canadian Jocelyn Morlock. Their works will be performed alongside those of Victorian-era French composer Cecile Chaminade and Scheherazade by her Russian contemporary Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov rounds out the evening.

The concert’s featured soloist is Paolo Bortolussi, VIS principal flautist. He is taking on Chaminade’s Flute Concertino, which he said he’s never played or even heard live with an orchestra despite it being a “standard work in the flute repertoire.”

Bortolussi said Chaminade has a “lush, romantic, charming” style and the Flute Concertino was written as a virtuosic show piece.

“It was written at the time as sort of challenge piece, challenging the limits of the flute’s virtuosity,” he said. “As with any instrument, the idea of virtuosity changes over time, but this piece is filled with lots of runs and leaps and arpeggios and pyrotechnics on the flute and it’s exciting and it has these beautiful, romantic moments as well.”

Bortolussi said the compositions in the program all complement each other without being too similar, adding that “any time you put together a collection of great works, it’s going to work.”

The Morlock piece the orchestra will play, Ornithomancy, was originally commissioned by the VIS in 2012, Bortolussi said, adding that the orchestra’s support of living composers puts the orchestra and the city on a national and international level.

“There’s the recognition that we’re being creators of new content for orchestra music … and I don’t know if that can be understated because we’re sort of reaching beyond what is traditionally the realm of a regional orchestra,” he said. “So these projects have gotten some good attention and it’s nice to have had that success over the past several years.”

Bortolussi said the VIS has a history of working with contemporary composers and will soon be releasing a CD with all five commissioned concertos that the orchestra has performed and recorded over the past five years. He also pointed out that three of the five composers in the upcoming Discovery show are still “living and breathing.”

“[It’s] this idea that we can engage audiences and present works that are very current and then combine them with masterworks from music history sort of to showcase that these can all be future masterworks – you just have to recognize them now,” he said.

WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Discovery: A Tribute to Women Composers at the Port Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. General admission from $33 to $54, $18 for students.

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