WNMF 4: Dialogues

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 , 7:30 pm


Kamancello:  Convergence Suite in 3 Movements
Missy Mazzoli :  Dark with Excessive Bright
Houtaf Khoury :  Mirror of Eternity
Wu Fei :  Hello Gold Mountain


Centennial Concert Hall: 

Returning to our familiar concert hall, music director Daniel Raiskin leads the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in a series of works featuring a stunning array of acclaimed guest soloists from around the world. This unique program places a spotlight on the relationship between soloist, conductor, orchestra, and composer – and the dialogue, synergy, and conflict that arise from their interactions.

Distinguished guest composer Missy Mazzoli returns with her sonorous concerto for double bass Dark with Excessive Bright that features WSO principal bassist Meredith Johnson, placing a spotlight on a ubiquitous instrument of the orchestra and its rich expressive possibilities.

Chinese-American composer and guzheng master Wu Fei is joined by NYC oud specialist Shanir Blumenkranz in the orchestral adaptation of her monumental Hello Gold Mountain, a powerful work inspired by the real stories of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai from Europe in World War II and built new lives in China.

In Mirror of Eternity, Lebanese composer Houtaf Khoury explores the socio-philosophical complexities of life in the Arab world through the soulful sonorities of the flute and symphony orchestra – a performance that doubly serves as a celebration of WSO principal flutist Jan Kocman’s stunning 50 years of service to the orchestra.

Finally, Kamancello returns to the stage, this time with the WSO, to weave together a rich sonic tapestry with their semi-improvisatory Convergence Suite, an expansive outgrowth of their repertoire heard three nights earlier at The Leaf.


Supported by

Dr. Jens Wrogemann



Program Notes

Kamancello – Convergence Suite in 3 Movements (2019) double concerto for kamancheh & cello
Kamancello: Raphael Weinroth-Browne, cello; Shahriyar Jamshidi, kamancheh

I. Incantations based on themes by Kamancello and arranged by Raphael Weinroth-Browne
II. Aether composed by Raphael Weinroth-Browne
III. Paala Bidar based on a piece by Shahriyar Jamshidi and arranged by Raphael Weinroth-Browne

Since 2014, Canadian duo Kamancello (kamanche + cello) have been blurring the lines between Persian and Western string playing with their improvised performances, creating a sound that travels beyond both traditions. Convergence Suite sees the duo taking this synergy a step further by combining the disparate worlds of chamber and orchestral music.

Incantations is built on themes from two of Kamancello’s recorded improvisations: Tenebrous (from the album Kamancello II: Voyage), and Incantation (from the album Kamancello). After a short improvised introduction, the soloists begin to exchange a lively 7/8 theme which beckons the orchestra to follow suit with similar hypnotic dance rhythms. This tumultuous movement wends through jagged rhythms and austere soundscapes before reaching an intense and propulsive final sequence.

Emerging seamlessly from the final chord of Incantations, Aether is an atmospheric interlude where sparse chords in the orchestra hang suspended in the air as the soloists’ fluid improvisations weave in and out of the texture. Eventually, the chords dissipate into a single droning note, gradually disappearing into nothing. The soloists’ dialogue continues and gradually intensifies as they herald the dynamic opening of the final movement.

Paala Bidar originated as a composition by Shahriyar Jamshidi for kamanche and percussion from his 2008 solo album Call of the Mountains. The piece was arranged and adapted for Kamancello and string orchestra by Raphael Weinroth-Browne. While Incantations and Aether focus on a conversation or exchange between the kamanche and cello, this final movement unifies the soloists; they frequently play the same line in octaves or in parallel harmonies, while the orchestra acts as a complex and interconnected percussion instrument. As the piece builds into a frenetic and rhythmically dense climax, one last winding sinuous line drives the music to its conclusion, with the soloists and all sections playing in unison, a final convergence of polarities: East and West; improvisation and recitation; individual and collective, joining as a single voice.

Missy Mazzoli – Dark with Excessive Bright (2018) for double bass & string orchestra
Meredith Johnson, double bass

While composing Dark with Excessive Bright for contrabass soloist Maxime Bibeau and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, I continuously listened to music from the Baroque and Renaissance eras. I was inspired in no small part by Maxime’s double bass, a massive instrument built in 1580 that was stored in an Italian monastery for hundreds of years and even patched with pages from the Good Friday liturgy. I imagined this instrument as a historian, an object that collected the music of the passing centuries in the twists of its neck and the fibers of its wood, finally emerging into the light at age 400 and singing it all into the world. While loosely based in Baroque idioms, this piece slips between string techniques from several centuries, all while twisting a pattern of repeated chords beyond recognition. “Dark with excessive bright,” a phrase from Milton’s Paradise Lost, is a surreal and evocative description of God, written by a blind man. I love the impossibility of this phrase, and felt it was a strangely accurate way to describe the dark but heartrending sound of the double bass itself. Dark with Excessive Bright was commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Aurora Orchestra in London. In 2019, I arranged the work for solo violin and string orchestra.

—Missy Mazzoli


Houtaf Khoury – Mirror of Eternity (2002) concerto for flute & orchestra
I. Molto lento
II. Allegro con ritmico
III. Largo
Jan Kocman, flute

The Concerto Mirror of Eternity is dedicated to Wissam Boustany and this is the world premiere recording. It has a socio-philosophic message, reflecting life in the Arab world, where society remains closed and entrenched. It therefore represents a person who is shaped by the characteristics of his cultural environment: where all is forbidden under the threat of attracting the wrath of God … this is the idea behind the first movement, where there is a sense of birth and contradiction, a desolate figure living in the middle of a society in denial. The second movement represents the material life of this person, a life of cabarets and dancers. Time quickly passes by and he finds himself depressed and disillusioned again … the third movement appears suddenly, the music taking on the form of a mirror image of the first movement (hence the title), retreating backwards towards the depressed banality of his life … all has been lost … but memories of good moments still linger … and life continues to its inevitable conclusion.

—Houtaf Khoury

Wu Fei – Hello Gold Mountain (2022) for guzheng, oud, and orchestra [Canadian premiere]
I. Overture
II. For Ho Feng Shan, the Chinese Schindler
III. Lily and Meimei
IV. Stateless Dance
V. July 17, 1945 – The Raid
VI. Shanghai Dark Sea
VII. Hello, Gold Mountain
Wu Fei, guzheng
Shanir Blumenkranz, oud

Hello Gold Mountain is a requiem for lost possibilities of the Jewish community of Shanghai.

The work, an original composition by Wu Fei, will feature chatterbird along with Wu Fei, guzheng, and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, oud (Silk Road Ensemble).

The piece is inspired by stories of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai from Europe during World War II. From 1933 until the end of the war, Shanghai was often the only port at which Jewish refugees fleeing Europe could disembark without a visa. In the early 1940s, more than 20,000 Jews lived in Shanghai and contributed to its cultural and civic life.

But the Jews could not stay. As China’s bloody civil war came to a close in 1949, most fled. Many emigrated to the US, often arriving at the port of San Francisco, or Old Gold Mountain 旧金山.

What musical possibilities were lost because the times did not allow neighbors from these different cultures to grow old together, sharing songs and stories? Similarly, what artistic creations will be lost if Europe and the United States close the door to refugees and migrants from lands in chaos?