Achievements

Pinchas Zukerman, Music Director
Mario Bernardi, C.C., Conductor Laureate
Boris Brott, O.C., Principal Youth and Family Conductor
Jack Everly, Principal Pops Conductor


“A rich, lustrous and highly unified sound”
- New York Times (New York, U.S.A.)

 “The fact that the National Arts Centre Orchestra under (Zukerman’s) baton is not only an elite ensemble but his equal partner was proven.”
- Kolnische Rundshau (Cologne, Germany)

“What a wonderfully responsive orchestra these Canadians have created.”
- Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England)

“The cheers and standing ovation at the end were as deserved as they were heartfelt.”
- Miami Herald (Miami, U.S.A.)

Consistent praise has followed this vibrant, classical-sized orchestra throughout its history of touring both nationally and internationally, recording, and commissioning Canadian works. The National Arts Centre Orchestra continues to draw accolades both abroad and at its home in Canada’s Capital, where it gives over 100 performances a year. The world-renowned conductor/violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman was named Music Director of the Orchestra in March 1998, beginning a new era of artistic excellence.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra was founded in 1969 as the resident orchestra of the newly opened National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa, Canada. The impressive complex with its three performing spaces rose on the banks of the Rideau Canal in Canada’s capital in honour of the country’s centenary which was celebrated widely in 1967 inspiring a number of major cultural initiatives.

Jean-Marie Beaudet, who would become the NAC’s first Director of Music, was one of a dedicated group of people committed to the creation of a resident orchestra for the NAC. Founding conductor Mario Bernardi, born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, returned from Britain’s Sadler’s Wells Opera to join Beaudet in the task of hand-picking the musicians who would form the classical-sized ensemble. Now in its 40th season, the NAC Orchestra still has five of these original musicians in its ranks.

Mario Bernardi, who became Music Director as well as conductor following the death of Beaudet in 1971, led the NAC Orchestra for its first 13 seasons. Bernardi was succeeded by the respected Italian conductor and composer Franco Mannino as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor until the end of the 1985-86 season and as Principal Guest Conductor for 1986-87.

From 1987-88 until the end of 1989-90, Gabriel Chmura, former conductor of West Germany’s Bochum Symphony Orchestra, was Conductor and Music Director. In March 1991 Trevor Pinnock, founding conductor of The English Concert, began his tenure as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra, becoming the ensemble’s Artistic Advisor for the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. In 1998 Pinchas Zukerman became the fifth conductor to lead the Orchestra.

Franz-Paul Decker was named to the position of Principal Guest Conductor in 1991, a role he continued until the end of the 1998-99 season. In 1997, founding conductor Mario Bernardi was appointed Conductor Laureate of the NAC Orchestra. In 2001, the young Chicoutimi native Jean-Philippe Tremblay took up the newly created post of Apprentice Conductor for a two-year term. In 2004, Boris Brott was named to the position of Principal Youth and Family Conductor, and Jack Everly was named to the position of Principal Pops Conductor.

Touring

Touring has always been an important part of the mandate of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. As well as performing a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre during its 46-week season, the Orchestra has visited in its 40-year history 114 cities in Canada and 122 cities internationally.

Though touring diminished in the 90s, it has enjoyed a resurgence since the arrival of Zukerman. In October 1999, the Orchestra completed a coast-to-coast Canada Tour under its new Music Director. The Canada Tour was unprecedented in the scope of its community outreach in addition to its concerts. The Orchestra has since completed five more Canadian tours led by Zukerman: Atlantic Canada in 2002, British Columbia in 2004, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2005, Quebec in 2006 and Western Canada from Winnipeg to the coast including its first ever visit to the Yukon in 2008. These tours have included dozen of education and outreach events in addition to the concerts – over 130 on the most recent tour. There have been masterclasses with Pinchas Zukerman and other Orchestra musicians, live Internet webcasts, concert-demonstrations in schools, pre-concert performances by local choirs, and the distribution of thousands of Teacher Resource Kits to elementary schools across the country, each complete with copies of NAC Orchestra recordings. Broadband videoconferencing has linked First Nations children from locations on tour to other parts of the country, and the 2005 tour included the Orchestra’s first-ever webcast of a student matinee to schoolchildren throughout Alberta. Each tour has featured a dedicated tour website, all of which are archived on the NAC’s performing arts education website ArtsAlive.ca.

In October 2000, the Orchestra with Music Director Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist toured the Middle East and Europe, performing 15 concerts in seven countries, and continuing the tradition of educational activities and Internet outreach. Teacher Resource Kits on Beethoven, each with a CD of the Orchestra performing Beethoven, were distributed to 12,500 elementary schools across Canada. Music-lovers could follow along on the Tour 2000 website (www.nac-cna.ca/tour2000) with daily updates, photos and musicians’ video journals, and many other offerings. The Tour generated rave reviews and enormous media attention.

In November 2003, with Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist, the Orchestra toured ten cities in the United States and Mexico. A teacher resource kit titled Let’s Go Mozart! was produced in English, French and Spanish and distributed to 12,500 elementary schools in Canada, and 5,000 schools in cities the Orchestra visited. Seventy educational activities took place including five live Internet webcasts, and the tour was extensively documented in photos and videos on the NAC’s performing arts website www.ArtsAlive.ca.

The first international tour, to Europe in 1973 under Mario Bernardi, included performances in Rome, Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and Warsaw. In 1978 the Orchestra and Bernardi returned to Europe for three weeks of concerts in Italy and Germany. In 1985 under Franco Mannino, the Orchestra made a critically acclaimed tour of the Pacific Rim, visiting major cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, and Hong Kong, where it performed concerts to sold-out houses.

The Orchestra’s third European tour in 1990 was under the baton of Pinchas Zukerman as guest conductor and violin soloist. The Orchestra performed in Germany, Denmark, Wales and England, repeatedly performing encores (five in Berlin!) and receiving standing ovations. In 1995, the NAC Orchestra’s toured Europe under the direction of Trevor Pinnock, beginning in Vienna’s historic Musikverein where the prestigious Salzburger Nachrichten declared that the “world-class ensemble ... showed the Viennese how Beethoven and ... Rossini should be played” through France, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Germany and England.

The 1991-92 season included the 32-city Canadian Celebration Tour led by guest conductor Victor Feldbrill in honour of Canada’s 125th Anniversary. This was the most extensive tour ever undertaken by a Canadian orchestra, earning rave reviews from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island.

The NAC Orchestra has toured regularly to the United States since making its American debut in its inaugural season and its New York debut at Lincoln Center in 1972. It has made numerous return visits and tours including eleven appearances in New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall.

The Orchestra was honoured with the Key to the City of Ottawa in recognition of its cultural achievements after both the 1973 and 1990 tours, and was honoured in the House of Commons on its return from the Canada Tour in 1999.

Recordings

The NAC Orchestra’s excellence is demonstrated in its superb recordings that number over 40 to date. The latest recording is an all-Mozart double CD released in 2003 featuring both orchestral and chamber music with Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist. The chamber music CD was nominated for a Juno Award. In 2002, an all-Schubert CD featuring Symphonies 2 and 3, and Rondo for Violin and Strings with Pinchas Zukerman and the NAC Orchestra was released.

A CBC Records chamber music CD of Mozart Flute Quartets featuring principal flutist Joanna G’froerer, guest violinist Martin Beaver, Pinchas Zukerman on viola, and principal cellist Amanda Forsyth was named best Canadian chamber music recording of 2001 by Opus Magazine.

Other recordings made with Zukerman since his appointment as Music Director of the NAC Orchestra include an all-Beethoven recording of Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2 plus Romance No. 2 with Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist – his first-ever recording of a Beethoven symphony – and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons featuring Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violinist on a recording that also includes Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione”. All of these are with CBC Records.

Other releases include a series of four CDs featuring the music of Canadian composers. In 1996, CBC Records released a NACO recording of four works by Harry Somers and in 1997 the same label released a CD of three works for female voice and orchestra by R. Murray Schafer. Five works by Alexina Louie, r Designate.  To celebrate the Orchestra’s 25th anniversary season, Analekta Archives issued a commemorative CD entitled Celebration, a retrospective of some of the NAC Orchestra’s most memorable recordings.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra, under the direction of Franco Mannino, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque du Canada by the Canadian Music Council for best orchestral recording by a chamber or full orchestra for its 1987 collaboration entitled Canadian Classics Volume II, and released in June 1999 continued this CBC Records series, with the title track, Shattered Night, Shivering Stars, winning a Juno Award.  Under the baton of Trevor Pinnock, NACO recorded four works by former Composer-in-Residence Linda Bouchard for a Marquis Classics recording released in May 1998 from which Songs for an Acrobat was nominated for a Juno Award. A fifth work conducted by Derrick Inouye is included on the recording. All five pieces were commissioned by the National Arts Centre.

Earlier releases include a BMG Classics (formerly RCA Records) recording of three works by Franz Joseph Haydn performed with guest conductor and violinist Pinchas Zukerman, issued internationally in 1993. The recording was re-released in 1998 when Zukerman became the Orchestra’s Music Directoo’s 1986 recording of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 was nominated for a Juno Award.  In 1989, Gabriel Chmura directed the Orchestra on a CBC SM5000 recording of Haydn symphonies which was also nominated for a Juno Award.

Radio and Television

Hundreds of National Arts Centre Orchestra concerts have been broadcast nationally on CBC Radio over the years reaching millions of listeners across the country. Currently, concerts are heard on CBC Radio 2’s Sunday Afternoon in Concert and Tempo.

After a long hiatus, the National Arts Centre Orchestra returned to national television with the arrival of Pinchas Zukerman. The Orchestra, with Zukerman as conductor and interviewee, was featured in the first six-part Whole Notes series of introductions to the great composers produced by Sound Venture Productions for the Bravo! network in 1999. The Orchestra, with Zukerman as violin soloist, provided the musical score for choreographer James Kudelka’s ballet The Four Seasons, made into a television special by Rhombus Media. Zukerman’s season-opening all-Beethoven concert in 1999, with Yefim Bronfman and Zukerman as soloists, was recorded for broadcast by CBC Television. The Orchestra recorded live in performance the television special My Secret Heart with superstar Canadian tenor Ben Heppner in 2000.

Award-winning director-producer Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media accompanied Pinchas Zukerman and the Orchestra on the Middle East portion of Tour 2000. The resulting documentary Crossing Bridges won the prestigious Gold World Medal at the 2001 New York Festivals. Then in 2002, the NAC Orchestra performed with a pantheon of stars of the Canadian music scene in Live From Rideau Hall, a live-to-air televised outdoor concert attended by thousands in celebration of 50 years of Canadians as Governors General.

Recently Pinchas Zukerman was the subject of a ten-part series of radio interviews by Eric Friesen entitled The Concerto According to Pinchas which have been repeated nationally on CBC Radio, most recently in the summer of 2006, and internationally. The series is also available on CD.

Education

Education has always been an important part of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s mandate and has taken on an even greater importance under Pinchas Zukerman, a renowned teacher as well as musician. The Music Department staff includes an Education Department of four under a full-time Director of Education. Boris Brott became the Orchestra’s Principal Youth and Family Conductor in 2004.

Zukerman’s first summer as Music Director in 1999 saw the creation of the NAC Young Artists Programme which brought 12 young musicians from across Canada to participate in masterclasses, chamber music rehearsals and concerts with musicians of the NAC Orchestra as part of the Great Composers Festival. This Programme has now grown to a three-week intensive summer training programme with an international faculty for over 80 young musicians from Canada and around the world.

2001 saw the addition of a Conductors Programme, a two-week session under master Finnish conductor Jorma Panula and Pinchas Zukerman for up to eight conductors from Canada and abroad. The Conductors Programme led to the appointment of Jean-Philippe Tremblay, a talented young participant in the 2001 session, to a two-year term as Apprentice Conductor of the NAC Orchestra. In 2006, the conductor and mentor-to-conductors Kenneth Kiesler took over from Panula as Director of the Conductors Programme.

In the summer of 2003, the Summer Music Institute added a Young Composers Programme to run concurrently with the programmes for instrumentalists and conductors. Gary Kulesha was the Lead Composer the first summer, assisted by his Affiliate Composer Andrew Staniland. Denys Bouliane was the Lead Composer in 2004, Alexina Louie was the Lead Composer in 2005, and Gary Kulesha returned in 2006. For ten days these Lead Composers and a guest composer work closely with a small group of young composers developing works-in-progress on a resident ensemble of musicians. This Programme is part of the NAC New Music Programme (see the section on Contemporary Music below). Education also forms an important component of the Orchestra’s programme on national and international tours under Pinchas Zukerman. (See the section on Touring above).

In 2007, the NAC Orchestra will launch the pilot year of the Institute of Orchestral Studies. Students accepted by audition will be invited to rehearse one or two works with the NAC Orchestra in up to four Orchestra programs between January and June.It is the start of what Pinchas Zukerman hopes will be a year-round institute charged with developing highly talented musicians for orchestral careers.

The NAC also offers a three-part series of masterclasses: the “International Series”, in collaboration with the University of Ottawa, consisting mainly of major guest soloists with the NAC Orchestra; the “NAC Orchestra Series” led by NACO musicians in collaboration with the Conservatoire de musique de Gatineau; and “Manhattan on the Rideau” featuring prominent jazz faculty from the Manhattan School of Music linked to the NAC by broadband videoconference.

The NAC Orchestra offers a number of programmes dedicated to fostering a knowledge and appreciation of music among young people. In addition to a highly popular subscription series of TD Canada Trust Young People’s Concerts for families, the Orchestra presents a variety of opportunities for schools to learn about classical music. Student Matinees, Open Rehearsals, and specially priced high school tickets allow students to hear the Orchestra perform in its home at the NAC. In addition, Musicians in the Schools programmes including ensemble performances and instrument sectionals take the music to the students in their schools.

In March 2002, the National Arts Centre launched its educational website ArtsAlive.ca. The first instalment of ArtsAlive.ca was devoted entirely to Music. The English Theatre section of ArtsAlive became available in 2003 and French Theatre in 2004. Dance followed in 2006.

ArtsAlive Music allows users to listen to, observe and manipulate a collection of 3D virtual instruments, see and hear interviews with professional musicians as well as watch video clips of musicians on tour with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The site also features information about the lives and works of some of the world’s best composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi and Stravinsky. The Orchestra’s tours are extensively documented on the ArtsAlive website as well with video interviews, podcasts, photos and much more.

Contemporary Works

The commissioning of original Canadian works has always been an important part of the National Arts Centre’s mandate. To date there have been over 90 works commissioned from such composers as Murray Adaskin, Istvan Anhalt, Norma Beecroft, Allan Gordon Bell, Michael Colgrass, Steven Gellman, Denis Gougeon, Jacques Hétu, Peter Paul Koprowski, Alexina Louie, Bruce Mather, André Prévost, R. Murray Schafer, Harry Somers and Gilles Tremblay. More recently commissions have included works created during the NAC Composers Programs. The Orchestra has performed Canadian compositions widely, taking commissioned works abroad on every major international tour.

In 2002, the Orchestra announced the launch of the NAC New Music Program. Prominent Canadian composers Denys Bouliane, Gary Kulesha and Alexina Louie became the first three recipients of the National Arts Centre Composer Awards of $75,000 each. Each composer was commissioned to create new works, while working closely with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on a series of new music education initiatives.

Gary Kulesha accompanied the Orchestra on its 2002 Atlantic Tour and its 2005 Alberta-Saskatchewan Tour, giving a series of composition workshops and lectures one of which was linked to Ottawa by Broadband. Denys Bouliane joined the Orchestra on its 2003 U.S. and Mexico Tour in a similar capacity, as did Alexina Louie on the 2004 British Columbia Tour and the 2008 Western Canada Tour.

Other highlights of the New Music Program include the establishment of the annual NAC Composers Program to develop promising Canadian composers (see section on Education above).

The Orchestra’s earlier commitment to new music included the position of Composer-in-Residence, funded in part by the Canada Council, which was held for three years from 1992 to 1995 by Quebec composer Linda Bouchard. Commissions from Bouchard included Exquisite Fires and Vertige, both of which were performed on the NAC Orchestra’s 1995 European tour, and Songs for an Acrobat, a song-cycle for baritone and orchestra.

Under Bouchard the NAC created several important new music projects including the innovative 20th Century Orchestral Workshop in January 1995, which featured the world premieres of four works commissioned especially for the NAC Orchestra from young Canadian composers, and “A Tonal Departure”, an annual three-part concert series highlighted by “Double-Take” concerts featuring composers José Évangelista, Tristan Murail, and Henry Brant with the world premiere of his orchestration of Charles Ives’ Concord Sonata.

Composer Jon Siddall was named to the position of New Music Advisor for the successful Generations XYZ New Music Festival which took place in January 1997, and again in January 1998.

In recognition of its imaginative programming of contemporary music, the NAC Orchestra was honoured with an award by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) in 1990. The Orchestra was also the first-ever winner of the SOCAN Award when it was inaugurated in 1978.

Opera

Opera at the National Arts Centre began in 1971 with the creation of a summer festival of opera and chamber music under Artistic Director Mario Bernardi. Within a few years, the festival was attracting international acclaim with such major productions as The Queen of Spades (1976) starring Jon Vickers and Maureen Forrester, the spectacular Cendrillon (1979) starring Frederica von Stade, and Eugene Onegin starring Thomas Allen (1983). In 1982 Handel’s Rinaldo, starring Marilyn Horne, brought the NAC wide praise and was successfully remounted in 1984 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in a gala Canadian evening celebrating the Met’s 100th anniversary season.

Though funding cuts caused the suspension of the summer festival in 1983, opera returned with The Marriage of Figaro in 1988, a revival of the NAC Production of Don Giovanni in 1989 and a new production of Così fan tutte in 1990 designed by Peter Rice and directed by Anthony Besch to complete the Mozart/Da Ponte cycle. 1991 was highlighted by a NAC/Vancouver Opera/Edmonton Opera co-production of The Barber of Seville.

Now the NAC Orchestra performs two to three times a year with Opera Lyra Ottawa, including productions of Rigoletto in 1994 with baritone Louis Quilico, Aida in 1997, Barber of Seville in 1998, The Pearlfishers in 1999, Daughter of the Regiment in 2000, Salome in 2001, the Ottawa premiere of Un Ballo in Maschera in 2003, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 2005, Verdi’s Falstaff in 2006, Verdi’s Otello in 2007, Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 2007 and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in 2009. In the 2009-10 season, Pinchas Zukerman makes his Opera Lyra Ottawa debut conducting Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Since 1998, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Opera Lyra Ottawa have also collaborated on a joint fundraising event, the Black & White Opera Soiree.

Ballet

The National Arts Centre Orchestra frequently accompanies ballet performances including regular visits by Canada’s three major ballet companies, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and such visiting companies as the Kirov Ballet, the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, La Scala Ballet and, in 2009, American Ballet Theatre.

March 2009