December 17th, 2017

Centric Festival offers music of the masters

By Mabell, Dave on July 4, 2017.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

Familiar and new performers are ready to celebrate another Lethbridge festival.

It’s the fifth year for the city’s Centric Festival, showcasing music by famous composers in a relaxed, audience-friendly setting downtown. The four-night series opens Wednesday with a pre-concert chat by a new addition to the music faculty at the University of Lethbridge.

Ryan Kolodziej – who started his musical discoveries at Catholic Central High – is the festival’s new director. Like him, many of this week’s performers have roots here.

“Centric is truly the product of the talents and skills of many here in Lethbridge and southern Alberta,” he points out.

Kolodziej, a pianist who studied with Glen Montgomery at the University of Lethbridge before earning further degrees in Edmonton and Montreal, is succeeding longtime Lethbridge favourite Jess Plessis as the festival’s director. He’s now based in Montreal, as is Plessis. But both will be featured in the series along with baritone Ian Fundytus, soprano Lisa Mulgrew and tenor Jason Ragan – well-known to Lethbridge audiences.

Cellist Tyler Stewart and mezzo-soprano Bethany Yon, both based in Calgary, are also featured in concerts. So is Leslie Ting, a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra whose Alberta experiences include a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Launching this year’s festival will be internationally known pianist Krzysztof Jablonski. A frequently invited performer of solo, chamber and orchestral works on stages across Europe and the two Americas for more than 30 years, Jablonski recently joined the music faculty in Lethbridge.

An early career highlight was winning the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1985, and Jablonski will present an all-Chopin concert on opening night. Starting time each night in the Casa community room will be 7:30 p.m., but on Wednesday he’ll talk about his selections and other Chopin works starting at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday’s presentation, “Bach to Bach,” will feature Stewart on Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, along with Plessis’s approach to the composer’s Partita No. 1 in B flat major. As well, soprano Mulgrew will join Plessis and Stewart in extracts from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Beethoven’s genius will be celebrated Friday, when Ting and Kolodziej present the Violin Sonata No. 6 in A major. Plessis will perform the Sonata in C sharp minor, and also accompany baritone Fundytus on “An die ferne Geliebte,” – “To the distant beloved.”

And eight of the series’ artists will be on deck for the finale on Saturday, focusing on Brahms. Six of them will be featured through a cycle of songs from Liebeslieder Waltzer, with Kolodziej and Plessis providing four-hands support. Yan, Stewart and Kolodziej will be heard in two more Brahms songs (also in German) while Ting will join Stewart and Kolodziej for the Piano Trio in B major.

Today, says Kolodziej, younger audiences are discovering the variety and depth of music by the “masters” and others, often associated with a full-scale orchestra.

But “it’s everybody’s music,” he believes, and many people will enjoy hearing it in a smaller, more engaging venue – where they may be just a few feet from the performers, just as the composers’ first audiences were.

“It was a more intimate experience, with the musicians playing for family and friends.”

Advance tickets for a concert or the full series are available at Casa, but tickets will also be sold at the door.

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