Impressionistic gems: Sarah Ioannides and Philippe Quint with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Zuill Bailey

The Vancouver Symphony concert this weekend at Skyview Concert Hall will feature impressionistic, programmatic music by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, John Corigliano, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and Ottorino Respighi. Under guest conductor Sarah Ioannides, the orchestra will suggest sounds that might remind you of scenes from nature, cities, exotic cultures, and even ancient Rome.

The concert marks a return engagement for Ioannides, who is in her tenth year as the Music Director of Symphony Tacoma. Ioannides made a terrific impression in her last appearance with the orchestra in January of 2021, even though she had to conduct with a mask because of the pandemic. This time around, she will be freed up to convey a fuller range of emotion.

“I love the impressionist and post-impressionist period of music,” said Ioannides via phone. “This concert will feature rich and lush pieces that resonate well with audiences. Corigliano is one of the great American composers, and his Red Violin Chaconne is based on seven different chords. People can follow the seven-chord line through the piece.”

One of the finest programmatic works ever written is Respighi’s Pines of Rome, a tone poem with four movements portraying settings in the city with pine trees.

“You will hear children playing under the pine trees in the Villa Borghese gardens in the first movement,” said Ioannides. “The second presents shadows of the pines by the catacombs. It is hymnlike and mysterious. The third offers a nighttime scene of the pines of the Janiculum hill, and it has a recording of bird sounds. In the fourth movement the dawn comes back, and we are at the Appian Way with a distance army marching toward us as the sun comes up – leaving all the death and the misery behind – glory has come to the new capital.”
Since the concert is loaded with impressionistic gems, the music will encourage audience members to close their eyes and use their imaginations. That might cause some people to reach into their purses for bug spray when they hear The Wasps, but who can blame them.
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