By Tim Collins
Maestra Tania Miller will be conducting her final opening night concert on Saturday when she takes the podium to conduct Rachmaninoff’s hauntingly beautiful Piano Concerto No. 1 and the exciting and seductive journey through The Arabian Nights as presented in Rimsky-Korakov’s Scheherazade.
“This time period in Victoria has been such a rich and blessed time and I find it difficult to imagine leaving,” said Miller. “And yet I feel very much at peace that it’s the right time (to move on).”
It will be the end of a 14-year period that began as Miller became the first woman to lead a major Canadian orchestra when she was named music director in 2003. At the time, she was also one of the youngest artists ever to hold the position.
Miller feels a youthful approach to the music helped her in achieving a personal goal of bringing new audiences to the orchestra. She also called reaching new ears the toughest part of her job.
“I wanted everyone to redefine what they think being part of a live orchestra experience is all about,” said Miller.
“One of my biggest challenges has been finding new ways to reach new and diverse audiences.”
Miller achieved her goal by staging a diverse offering of different musical styles, utilizing a wide spectrum of venues and opening a more intimate communication with her audiences.
“She’s taken an orchestra that was a good orchestra and turned it into a great orchestra,” said Mitchell Krieger, the Victoria Symphony’s executive director. “Virtually every guest artist and conductor who comes here says they’re blown away. They say they are very, very surprised to hear an orchestra that can compete on any level, in a relatively small community.”
Saturday’s first offering, a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1, will be performed by Stewart Goodyear, the immensely talented Canadian pianist who joined with the Victoria Symphony on their tour through Eastern Canada last season. It’s a natural selection for Goodyear who has performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 3 in the Victoria Symphony’s previous two seasons.
The opening night symphony is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade; a story of one of literature’s greatest storytellers and the tales of the Arabian Nights. Scheherazade is the bride of a young sultan who has decided to take a new wife every night and have her executed the next morning. In order to save herself and all future brides from this grisly fate, she tells the Sultan a series of fascinating stories, leaving him in suspense every night with an unfinished tale. In fear of not hearing the end of the story, the Sultan finds he can’t execute his young bride after all.
The concert opens with a world premier, First Screening from Toronto-based composer Christopher Mayo. The piece explores the blurry lines of media, typography and poetry.
Scheherazade will be performed at the Royal Theatre on Sept. 24 and 25. For more information visit victoriasymphony.ca.