The NACO made its debut 7 Oct 1969 under Bernardi. The orchestra was pivotal in the success of the National Arts Centre's first decade of operation.
Programs and Concert Series
The NACO's repertoire comprises the baroque and the classical, 19th-century music, and contemporary music including more than 50 works commissioned from Canadian composers. The first of these was Murray Adaskin's Diversion for Orchestra, premiered at the inaugural concert. (See list.)
The NACO often is enlarged to accommodate specific orchestral works. It has also accompanied choral societies, visiting ballet and opera companies, and from 1971-91, the NAC's summer presentations of opera, Festival Ottawa (founded as Festival Canada in 1971). Since the late 1990s, the NACO has accompanied Opera Lyra Ottawa twice each year.
In Ottawa the NACO annually gives subscription concerts, including the Young Peoples' Concert series, over a 46-week season. It has also sponsored Music for a Sunday Afternoon, a series of four to six chamber concerts by members of the orchestra; and the Great Composers Festival.
The NACO fulfills its mandate as Canada's national orchestra through command performances on state occasions and extensive Canadian tours. It has made numerous tours in all parts of Canada. A reduction in funding caused a touring hiatus in the 1990s, with a revival in 1999 when the orchestra undertook a coast-to-coast tour that included concerts, masterclasses with the music director (Pinchas Zukerman) and members of the orchestra, and concert demonstrations in schools and over the Internet. Atlantic Canada and Toronto were visited in 2002.
The NACO's first European tour took place in 1973. The orchestra performed in London, Versailles, Rome, Venice, Warsaw, Riga, Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities, and was described as 'an already mature and accomplished ensemble... there was a splendid litheness and buoyancy in the rhythms and suppleness in the shaping of the melodic lines' (London Daily Telegraph, 2 Jun 1973). It made three subsequent tours to Europe, in 1978, 1990, and 2000.
The orchestra made its first US appearance at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, in 1972 and also performed at the Kennedy Center, Washington, in 1973. It made its Carnegie Hall debut in 1974 and toured the USA and Mexico in 1975 and 2003. Additional tours to the USA took place in 1976, 1979, 1981, 1986, 1990, and 2003. In 1985 the orchestra made its first Asian tour, to Japan and Hong Kong.
The orchestra toured the Middle East and Europe in 2000, performing 15 concerts in 17 cities in addition to educational programs. Canadians were able to follow the progress of the tour by Internet. In conjunction with its 1999, 2000, and 2003 tours, the orchestra produced teacher resource kits, including a CD, which were distributed to Canadian elementary schools.
The NACO's first composer-in-residence was Linda Bouchard, 1992-1995, whose commissions from the orchestra were included in the 1995 European tour. Also in 1995 the 20th Century Orchestral Workshops were held, featuring four commissioned works by young Canadian composers. Jon Siddall followed as new music adviser and established the Generations XYZ New Music Festival of concerts that took place January 1997 and January 1998. Under Zukerman the Summer Music Institute, an extensive educational program, was established in 1999 beginning with the Young Artists Program, followed in 2001 by the Conductors' Program and the Young Composers Program in 2003.
In 2002 the NAC New Music Plan was announced, creating the National Arts Centre Composer Awards of $75,000 each. The award entailed three commissions over a four-year period for each composer, in addition to opportunities to work with the orchestra on new music education initiatives. The first recipients were Denys Bouliane, Gary Kulesha, and Alexina Louie.
Periods of Tension
The NACO's status within the NAC has occasionally been challenged. In the late 1980s NAC general director Yvon DesRochers announced plans to allow graduates of conservatories to play in the orchestra. The project was perceived as a threat to the international standard that the NACO had enjoyed, and to the priority of the NACO in the NAC's plans. Morale in the orchestra dropped further when the musicians' contract offer was withdrawn and music director Gabriel Chmura's contract was not renewed. The orchestra went on strike 4 Oct-30 Nov 1989. Further conflict arose when a touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera was booked into the NAC for 10 weeks in mid-season 1992 and a tour arranged for the orchestra during that period. This was interpreted by the public and musicians as a further challenge to the NACO's status in the organization.
Among foreign solo artists to appear as guests have been Elly Ameling, Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, Janet Baker, Robert Casadesus, Phyllis Curtin, Pierre Fournier, Kyung-Wha Chung, Jessye Norman, John Ogdon, Leonard Rose, Peter Serkin, Janos Starker, Frederica von Stade, and Pinchas Zukerman.
Conductors and Guest Conductors
The resident conductors of the NACO have been Mario Bernardi (1969-82), Franco Mannino (1982-6), Gabriel Chmura (1986-90), Trevor Pinnock (1991-8), and Pinchas Zukerman (1998-present). Franz-Paul Decker was appointed principal guest conductor (1991-9). In 1997 founding conductor Mario Bernardi was made conductor laureate and in 2001 Jean-Philippe Tremblay became the first apprentice conductor.
Many foreign conductors have appeared as guests of the NACO, including Géza Anda, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Rudolf Barshai, Charles Dutoit, Kiril Kondrashin, Raymond Leppard, Karl Münchinger, Karl Richter, Maxim Shostakovitch, Walter Susskind, and Sir Michael Tippett.
Canadian or resident Canadian guest conductors have included Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Raffi Armenian, Jean-Marie Beaudet, Boris Brott, Franz-Paul Decker, Mario Duschenes, Victor Feldbrill, Piero Gamba, Harman Haakman, Pierre Hétu, and Boyd Neel.
Adaskin Diversion for Orchestra 1969
Anhalt Simulacrum 1987
Beecroft Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2 1971
Bell Spirit Trails 1994
Bissell Cantate Domino (commissioned by the NACO Association) 1977
Bouchard Ressac for orchestra (orchestration commissioned by NAC) 1992; Exquisite Fires (recorded by NACO) 1993; Réciproque (piano trio) 1994; Vertige (recorded by NACO) 1994; Songs for an Acrobat (song cycle for baritone, recorded by NACO) 1995; Eternity (ballet) (recorded by NACO) 1996
Bouliane La neige est blanche mais l'eau est noire 2003
Cardy / Duschenes Rhythm in your Rubbish 2001
Colgrass Delta 1979; The Schubert Birds 1990
Fleming Hexad 1972, Our Mind Was the Singer (song cycle for baritone) 1973
Forsyth O Canada! (Lavallée, new orchestration) 1996
Freedman Tapestry 1973
Gellman Symphony in Two Movements (commissioned by the CBC for the NACO) 1971; Overture for Ottawa 1974; Two Tapestries 1980; Canticles (commissioned by the Canadian Red Cross for the NACO) 1989; Jãya Overture 1996
Gougeon Primus Tempus (NAC/CBC co-commission) 1994; O Canada! (Lavallée, new orchestration) 1996
Harman Let Me Die Before I Wake 1994
Hayes Serenade for English horn, trumpet and strings 1984
Hébert/Tremblay Calme, étale, la mer berce un grand soleil fauve 1995
Hétu Antinomie 1977; Flute Concerto Opus 51 1992
Hodkinson, Sydney Chansons de jadis 1981
Holman Christmas Carols: Adeste fideles/Il est né le divin enfant/While Shepherds Watched/Quittez, pasteurs/Deck the Halls/God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/Good King Wenceslas/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 1980
Hui Inner Voices (co-commission with the Saskatoon Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and the NAC) 1995
Kenins Sinfonia ad fugam (Symphony No. 6) 1979
Koprowski Cappricio 1988; Sinfonia Concertante 1992
Kulesha Violin Concerto 2003
Levin Black and White Together - In Memoriam Martin Luther King 1988
Louie The Night is Shattered and the Blue Stars Shiver in the Distance 1997; String Quartet No. 2 2003
MacDermot Incident at Turtle Rock 1975
Mannino Symphony No. 5, Opus 237 "Rideau Lake" (commissioned by G. Hamilton Southam for the NACO) 1986
Mather Le Château de Pompairain 1977
Oliver Forging Utopia 1998
Peaker Pastoral Medley 1995
Perron Vagues immobiles (pour clarinette et orchestre) 1998
Plamondon Deuxième pièce pour orchestre 1995
Prévost Évanescence (recorded by NACO) 1970; Ouverture (commissioned by the CBC for the NACO) 1975
Ridout George the Third, His Lament 1976
Riley, Douglas Concerto for piano and orchestra 1982
Schafer East 1973; Cortège 1977; In the Garden of the Heart (recorded by NACO) 1981; Gitanjali (recorded by NACO) 1992
Schultz Dissolutions I 1995
Somers Those Silent, Awe-Filled Spaces 1978
Staniland Alchemy 2003
Symonds On an Emerald Sea (never performed at NAC) 1983
Tremblay Jeux de solstices 1974
Ubertelli A Franco Donatoni, scritto come manglo 1995
Symphony No. 2 - Adaskin Diversion for Orchestra. 1977. CBC SM-333
Symphony No. 4 - Morel Esquisse. 1977. CBC SM-332
Symphony No. 8 - Weinzweig Ballet Suite from the Red Ear of Corn. 1977. CBC SM-345
Brahms Serenade No. 1. 1972. CBC SM-197
Italian Arias: Rossini - Monteverdi - Paisiello - Leoncavallo. Von Stade mezzo. 1977. Col M35138
Mozart Flute Concerto No. 2 K314; Concerto for flute and harp K299. Cram flute, Goodman harp. 1974. CBC SM-262
Violin Concerto No. 3 K216 - Haydn Symphony No. 83. Staryk violin. 1971. CBC SM-174
Violin Concerto No. 5 K219; Serenata notturna No. 6 K239 - Beecroft Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2. Staryk violin. 1972. RCI 382/RCA KRL 1-0007
Symphony No. 38 K504 - Eckhardt-Gramatté Triple Concerto. Collins trumpet, Morton clarinet, Corey bassoon. 1974. CBC SM-272
Symphony No. 39 K543 - Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello, Op 33. Brott cello. 1974, 1976. CBC SM-306
Symphony No. 41 K551; Ombra felice - Somers Five Songs for Dark Voice. Forrester alto. 1969. RCI 286/RCA LSC 3172
Prokofiev Symphonie classique - Prévost Évanescence - Haydn 4 Arias. Alarie soprano, Simoneau tenor. 1970. RCI 332/RCA VCCS 1640
Schafer East. 1977. RCI 434
Schubert Symphony No. 6 - Wagner Siegfried Idyll. 1972. CBC SM-201
Tippett Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli; Divertimento on 'Sellinger's Round .' Prystawski violin, Roy violin, Whitton cello. 1975. CBC SM-287
Haydn. Symphonies Nos. 101 and 104. 1980. CBC SM-5001
Beethoven. Symphony No. 6. 1981. CBC SM-5008
Poulenc. Aubade. - Ibert. Divertissement. - Debussy. Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Cram flute, Massé piano. 1982. CBC SM-5013.
Mozart. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Symphony No. 40. 1982. CBC SM-5018.
Beethoven. Symphony No. 7. 1982. CBC SM-5019.
Louie. Shattered Night, Shivering Stars, Thunder Gate, Arc, Love Songs for a Small Planet, Obsessions (Their Own Words). Martin Beaver, violin, Russell Braun, baritone, Cantata Singers of Ottawa, Laurence Ewashko, director. (1999) SMCD 5190.
Schafer. Gitanjali, Adieu Robert Schumann, The Garden of the Heart. Donna Brown, soprano, Judith Forst, Maria Popescu, mezzos. (1997) CBC SMCD 5173.
With Eduardo Mata as Conductor
Bizet. Symphony in C, Mozart. Divertimento No. 11. Floyd, oboe. 1983. RCA XRCI-4689.
Strauss, Richard. Le Bourgeois gentilhomme - Wiren, Dag. Serenade for String Orchestra. 1984. RCA HRCI-5362.
With Franco Mannino as Conductor
Italian Opera Overtures. Overtures by Rossini, Verdi, Donizetti, Wolf-Ferrari, Bellini. 1983. CBC SM-5021.
Strauss, R. Metamorphosen - Schubert. Symphony in B minor. 1985. CBC SM-5034.
Canadian Classics Vol. 2. Somers. North Country - Symonds. Three Atmospheres - Prévost. Célébration - Hétu. Symphony No. 3. 1987. CBC CMC-2987.
Mozart. Music for Flute and Orchestra. Aitken, flute. 1987. CBC SM-5078.
With Gabriel Chmura as Conductor
Haydn. Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 and 8. 1989. CBC SM-5085.
With Franz-Paul Decker as Conductor
Mozart. Clarinet Concerto in A major. - Copland. Concerto for Clarinet and Strings - Weber. Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra. Campbell, clarinet. 1991 CBC SM-5096.
With Pinchas Zukerman as Conductor
Haydn. Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2, Symphony No. 22. Zukerman, violin. (1993, re-released 1998).
Vivaldi. The Four Seasons - Haydn Symphony No. 49. Zukerman violin. (1999) CMCD 5194.
Beethoven. Symphonies 1 & 2. Romance No. 2. Zukerman, violin. (2000) CMCD 5201.
Schubert. Symphonies Nos 2 & 3, Rondo for Violin and Strings. Zukerman, violin. (2002) CMCD 5221.
Mozart. Divertimento for Strings, Violin Concerto No. 4, Symphony No. 29. Zukerman, violin. (2003) CMCD 5230-2.
With Other Conductors
Somers. North Country, Suite for Harp and Chamber Orchestra, Lyric for Orchestra, Symphony No. 1. Victor Feldbrill, conductor, Jennifer Swartz, harp. (1996) CBC SMCD 5162.
Bouchard. Exquisite Fire, Ressac for Orchestra, Vertige, Songs for an Acrobat, Eternity. Trevor Pinnock, Derrick Inouye, conductors. Kevin McMillan, baritone. (1998) Marquis Classics 81219.
Author Clifford Ford, Kenneth Winters
Applebaum, Louis. 'A Proposal for the Musical Development of the Capital Region,' unpublished report (Ottawa 1965)
'L'Orchestre du Centre national des arts,' Jmc, Apr 1969
Van Vlasselaer, J.J. 'The NAC Orchestra in Germany and Italy,' Mcan, 36, Aug 1978
Littler, William. 'Bernardi and his band,' The Canadian, 8-9 Sep 1979
Southam, Hamilton. 'Genesis of an orchestra,' Prelude, vol 2, Sep-Oct 1979
Ericson, Raymond. 'Music notes: here come the Canadians from Ottawa,' New York Times, 14 Oct 1979
Bernardi, Mario. 'The growth of an orchestra - 1969-79,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 27 Oct 1979
Young Pamela, 'Sounds of discord,' Maclean's, 16 Oct 1989
Beaubien, Andrea. 'And the orchestra played on,' Ottawa Magazine, Oct 1989
Skuce, Marsha. 'Under siege: National Arts Centre management hit by strike, barrage of criticism,' 2-part series, Ottawa Citizen, 18-19 Nov 1989
Mazey, Steven. "Who will pick up Pinnock's baton?" Ottawa Citizen, 29 Jan 1996
Geddes, John. "Playing to win," Maclean's, 30 July 2001
- --"Canadian composers score at last," Ottawa Citizen, 20 March 2002
Everett-Green, Robert. "NAC looks homeward for new music," Globe and Mail, 20 March 2002
Links to Other Sites
A CBC obituary for Second World War veteran, journalist, diplomat, and educator Gordon Hamilton Southam, who founded Ottawa's National Arts Centre and helped create the Canadian War Museum.
Facebook: Orchestras Canada
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An extensive collection of audio clips from recordings featuring the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing works by noteworthy Canadian and international composers. Click on a composer's name on the right side menu to access specific works. See also composer biographies and the interactive timeline of historical milestones in classical music. From artsalive.ca and the Virtual Museum of Canada.
National Arts Centre
The YouTube channel for Canada's prestigous National Arts Centre.