Symphonie Fantastique pairs Berlioz’s innovative masterpiece with imaginative new work by local, award-winning composer Benton Roark

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The Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra (VAMSO) will embark on a thrilling musical journey with Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, February 19, 2017, 2pm at the Orpheum Theatre. In an afternoon inspired by ingenuity, VAMSO’s more than 100 musicians led by Music Director Leslie Dala will delve into Berlioz’s wildly visionary world of fantasy, named “the most innovative symphony of the 19th century” (The Guardian). The concert will also premiere A Stitch in Time, Vancouver composer Benton Roark’s latest creation.

“Berlioz was a radical as far as radicals go among early-romantic era composers,” says Joseph Elworthy, Executive Director of the Vancouver Academy of Music. “Born only thirty years after Beethoven, the ideas Berlioz developed in Symphonie Fantastique were centuries ahead, setting precedent for masters such as Chopin and Liszt. In his time period, Benton Roark has established himself as a cutting-edge musical creator, and we are thrilled to commission his brand new work echoing the imagination and enchantment of Berlioz.”

The French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) wrote the semi-autobiographical Symphonie Fantastique for Harriet Smithson, an Irish actress with whom he was enamored and eventually married. Berlioz’s frantic passion is vivid in Symphonie Fantastique’s vibrant harmonic coloration and dizzying dramatic phrases, putting listeners into a musical delirium Leonard Bernstein famously described as “psychedelic”. During Symphonie Fantastique’s five movements, this lover’s obsession escalates in a recurring melodic motif, which Berlioz calls the “idée fixe”. Presenting this motif each time in a different form, Berlioz broke from tradition and paved the way for a new style, solidifying himself as a trailblazer of his time.

A pioneering artist in his own right, Benton Roark was nominated the 2016 Western Canadian Music Award’s ‘Composer of the Year’ forSongs from the Rainshadow’s Edge, a five-part work combining voice, flute, bass, electric guitar and narration. Roark is not only inventive in writing music, but also in musical design; he recently constructed a microtonal instrument he calls the  “Lumiphone”, a nine-foot glass marimba with 31 notes per octave.

A Stitch in Time, which the U.S. born Roark describes as a “tone poem” will have its world premiere at the VAMSO concert. The work draws from Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities, set in a mythic city whose fate is woven by a godly loom. Much like Berlioz’s Symphonie, Roark’s composition evokes an ethereal, myriad of visions, shifting from dark and foreboding, to luminous and grandiose, and sweeping up the listener in a stirring dreamscape.

In addition to the program’s exhilarating performances, as part of VAMSO’s spring concert tradition, this event will feature a solo by the 40thannual Kay Meek Competition winner Caitlin Wong. Born and raised in Vancouver, the young, multi-award winning violinist will shine in her own prodigious interpretation of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

Tickets are available at the door or online at: vam.ca.

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