In a program ranging from the 18th century through to the present day, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra welcomes back renowned French hornist James Somerville to play-conduct in their second-to-last Spring Series concert. 




Music of Mozart, Brahms, and Respighi will ring out in the vibrant acoustic of Westminster United Church as will a co-commission of Canadian composer Kati Agócs specially written for the brilliant player. 

Shared between the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and four other organizations — Symphony Nova Scotia, the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra — the Agócs Horn Concerto premiered in person last November, though the MCO online audience was teased a small portion of the work in the 2021 online Spring and Summer Festival.  

Hailed as “a composer of imposing artistic gifts” (Gramophone Magazine) and “one of the brightest stars in her generation of composers” (Audiophile Audition), Kati Agócs writes “sublime music of fluidity and austere beauty” (The Boston Globe), that is “simmering…lucid…and demands to be heard” (The New York Times). A recent Guggenheim Fellow, she is also a winner of the prestigious Arts and Letters Award, the lifetime achievement award in music composition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a two-time nominee for Classical Composition of the Year in the Juno Awards, the Canadian Grammy Awards.

“He’s got a very effortless high register and a very pure sound,” says Agócs of Sommerville.

Fellow Canadians who both serve as faculty members at the New England Conservatory, Agócs and Sommerville have previously collaborated together in projects with the Hamilton Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble, of which the outstanding horn player is a member. 

“(James Sommerville) just has such beautiful natural phrasing, too. And that’s something I took advantage of in this piece.” 

Written as a sort of companion piece to Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat Major, K. 447, Agócs’ work uses the latter as a musical springboard into the 21st century. 

“My music is quite complex… it’s about connecting with (the Mozart) initially and then there are lots of layers,” says the composer. For example, one musical relationship is in the scoring — 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and 2 strings — which Agócs also used, while adding bass clarinet and contrabassoon. 

“It’s that feeling of taking the Mozart sound world but then extending it timbrally and also in terms of the harmonic language,” explains Agócs. 

Winnipeg audiences will have two opportunities to hear the Agócs Horn Concerto played by Sommerville and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra: Tuesday, May 31 and again on Wednesday, June 1. 

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