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Beethoven Symphony No. 7

November 5 @ 2:30 pm

Kalena Bovell has a distinctive voice as a maestra, speaker, and poet. The Panamanian-American conductor is an Awardee of the 2022-2024 Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, and serves as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. She premieres a VS/VSO co-commission by the Metchosin-born composer Cassandra Miller and welcomes the award-winning B.C. guitarist Alan Liu for courtly dances in the Concierto de Aranjuez. Wagner proclaimed the praises of Beethoven’s Seventh, calling it the “apotheosis of the dance” for its endless and varied rhythmic drive.

Choose five (5) or more concerts and a 25% discount will apply to the entire order.


Kalena Bovell, conductor

With her distinctive voice as maestra, speaker, and poet, critics praise Panamanian-American conductor Kalena Bovell as “one of the brightest stars in classical music.” (Channel 3 News, Connecticut).

Named a 2022-2024 Award Recipient of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, Bovell’s singular imprint on the arts distills into two values: community engagement and musical excellence. She employs these values as Assistant Conductor to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Conductor of the Memphis Youth Symphony, while continuing to have high demand as a guest conductor.

Bovell’s 2022-2023 season features a bevy of exciting conducting debuts, including her opera debut with Volcano Theatre, where she will lead a reimagined production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha. Additional debuts include with the Musikkollegium Winterthur in Switzerland, Sphinx at SphinxConnect2023, the Albany Symphony, and Louisiana Philharmonic. Residencies this season include UC Redlands in California as well as the Harmony Project in Los Angeles in February 2023.

In recent years, Bovell has led numerous marquee performances, including at the BBC Proms with the Chineke! Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center’s “Reframing the Narrative” with the Collage Dance Collective in Kevin Thomas’s Firebird. Reviewing her BBC performance, ArtsDesk stated simply: “Never let her go.” She is also quickly becoming a mainstay on the North American festival circuit, conducting at the Summer Orchestra Institute at New England Conservatory, and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in 2022. Since making her professional debut as the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Assistant Conductor in 2016, invitations as guest conductor have included Hartford Opera Theatre, New Britain Symphony, and a particularly memorable performance leading Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. with the Memphis Symphony prior to her official appointment. Outside conducting, Bovell’s poem, “Tethered Voices,” also premiered the same year, set to music by James Lees III and performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. She additionally made speaking appearances at Sewanee Winterfest and the SphinxConnect 2021: UNITY Conference.

Bovell’s first private lesson came at 18, a late introduction to classical music that sets her background apart. In hopes of inspiring similar young artists, Bovell has shared insights from her unconventional career path with news outlets, universities and organizations including the BBC and the League of American Orchestras.

A Los Angeles native, Bovell received a Master of Music and Graduate Performance Diploma in Orchestral Conducting from The Hartt School, where she studied with Edward Cumming, and holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the College of the Performing Arts at Chapman University

In addition to conducting, Bovell is a published author, releasing her first poetry book titled “Dear Soul…” in 2009. She has increasingly interwoven her poetry with her music career, collaborating with Rob McClure’s Conductor Cam series in 2020 to perform her poem “Tethered Voices.”


Alan Liu, classical guitar

Chinese-Canadian guitarist Alan Liu received first prizes in numerous international competitions, including the Mercatali Gorizia, Josefina P. Tuason, Indiana, and Houston International Classical Guitar Competitions. He also won fourth prize in the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition.

Beginning his musical journey at the age of five, Liu received his first national prize at the age of seven. From 2014 to 2016, he earned several awards in North America and Europe, including first prizes in the Guitar Foundation of America and Guitare Montreal international youth competitions, Northwest International Artist Competition, and Federation of Canadian Music Festivals Guitar Competition, as well as top prizes in the Parkening International Youth Guitarist Competition and Michele Pittaluga Junior Guitar Competition.

Liu is the first and youngest classical guitarist to be featured in CBC’s “30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30.” In addition to solo performances with the Vancouver Symphony and Prince George Symphony, he was a featured artist at the Montreal International Guitar Festival and juror in the QinLing International Guitar Festival. Liu made his Lincoln Center debut with the Juilliard Chamber Orchestra in February 2023. Liu studies with Sharon Isbin at the Juilliard School, where he receives the Augustine Fellowship, McCabe Guitar Fellowship, and C. & H. Lewine Scholarship. Liu received his bachelor’s at the Curtis Institute of Music, studying with David Starobin and Jason Vieaux, and he is an alumnus of the Aspen Music Festival.

Alan plays on Augustine Strings and uses instruments made by Martin Blackwell and Altamira.

Cassandra Miller (1976—)
Premiere, VS/VSO co-commission
Supported by the Hugh Davidson Fund at the Victoria Foundation, and by Royal Northern Sinfonia

Joaquin Rodrigo (1901—1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez 
Allegro con spirito
Allegro gentile


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770—1827)
Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Poco sostenuto – Vivace
Allegro con brio

NOVEMBER 5, 2023


Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it’s probable that the guitar is the most popular instrument on at least five of the world’s seven continents—and perhaps six, if you count the regular jam sessions held at McMurdo Station, a research facility just off the coast of Antarctica. Yet it’s remarkable that the instrument is almost never featured in orchestral concerts—although, admittedly, there are good reasons for this, mostly having to do with the difficulty of finding an acceptable balance between ensemble and soloist.

Acoustic guitars are too quiet, most conductors and composers say, while electric guitars are too loud.

And in the rare instances when the guitar is featured, as it will be in this Victoria Symphony program starring virtuoso Alan Liu and guest conductor Kalena Bovell, the odds are good that the work being performed will be Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Such has been the case ever since Regino Sainz de la Maza premiered the work in Barcelona in 1940; with dashing rhythms borrowed from traditional flamenco and sensitive orchestration, it is simultaneously exotic, folkloric, accessible, and sophisticated.

Performing Rodrigo’s masterpiece is a rite of passage for any classical guitarist, and the 23-year-old Liu will be in good company. Julian Bream, although perhaps best known for almost single-handedly sparking a revival of interest in English composers from the Elizabethan era, made a landmark recording of the Concierto de Aranjuez in 1951, when he was only 17, and went on to record it four more times. Flamenco innovator Paco de Lucia reportedly learned to read music so that he could perform the Concierto de Aranjuez; Rodrigo counted it among his favourite interpretations. Andres Segovia, oddly enough, never recorded Rodrigo’s masterpiece, but considered it “a wonderful success” and “truly beautiful”. And Jim Hall, jazz guitar’s intellectual titan, recorded a somewhat abridged version with a band including Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, and Ron Carter. Rodrigo’s opinion, as far as we know, is not on record.

Ironically, though, the most famous version of the Concierto de Aranjuez did not involve a symphony orchestra, nor did it feature the guitar. This came about because, in 1959, a friend had played Renata Tarregó’s recording of the concerto for the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who had promptly fallen head-over-heels in love. “After listening to it for a couple of weeks,” Davis told jazz journalist Nat Hentoff, “I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

Davis soon enlisted his Canadian-born arranger, Gil Evans, to arrange the Concierto’s second movement, along with an excerpt of Manuel de Falla’s 1915 ballet score El amor brujo and three folkloric themes for their 1960 Sketches of Spain album. It was a hit, but not with Rodrigo. Although the composer was credited he had not been consulted beforehand, and he was initially outraged by this oversight. Rumour has it, though, that he was considerably placated when Sketches of Spain made the Concierto broadly famous, and American royalty money came rolling in.

At this point you may well be asking what Rodrigo’s beautiful but essentially conservative 20th-century concerto has in common with the other featured work on this program, Ludwig van Beethoven’s innovative 19th-century classic, the Symphony No. 7 in A major. It’s a good question.

Perhaps these two pieces, joined here by the premiere of a work by Metchosin-born composer Cassandra Miller (* see note below), are best seen as mirror images. Despite its generally sunny disposition, the Concierto de Aranjuez contains an undercurrent of despair that emerges fully only in its second movement. It had been generally supposed that this was in some way an elegy for the Spanish Republicans who had died in the country’s brutal civil war, but some years after the Concierto’s debut it was revealed that while Rodrigo’s sorrow was genuine, it had a more personal source: a miscarriage his wife had suffered during the compositional process.

The Symphony No. 7, in contrast, is marked by Beethoven’s usual seriousness of purpose, but its final allegro con brio movement is a change of pace—in this case to a madcap sequence so rollicking that the composer himself, conducting its 1813 debut, was seen leaping on the podium like a feral goat, and “tearing his arms with a great vehemence asunder”, according to violinist Louis Spohr, who was on the stage. Off stage, the audience was similarly impassioned, demanding a repeat performance of that final movement.

Both then and in the two centuries since, others have been less enthusiastic. Pianist and critic Friedrich Wieck accused Beethoven of having written the Symphony No. 7 while drunk, and the conductor Thomas Beecham took the goat metaphor a little further when, assessing the third movement, he commented “What can you do with it? It’s like a lot of yaks jumping about.”

Frankly, many of us would pay good money to see yaks and goats cavorting on the Farquhar stage; consider the international success of Cavalia. A new revenue stream for the Victoria Symphony? Probably not, so we will have to content ourselves with the orchestra’s stock in trade: energizing performances of excellent music.

Notes by Alex Varty

* Editor’s Note: The premiere of Cassandra Miller’s work was delayed from April of 2023 due to a medical setback, now successfully resolved. At the time of publication of this note she is writing the score, for a debut in September of 2023 by the Royal Northern Sinfonia. Cassandra Miller’s work has been commissioned by the Victoria Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony through the Hugh Davidson Fund at the Victoria Foundation, and in partnership with Royal Northern Sinfonia in Gateshead, UK.


BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A major
Performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Conductor: Iván Fischer


RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez
Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko


Guitar soloist Alan Liu live in Austin, Texas
Una limosnita por el amor de dios (Agustín Barrios)



November 5
starts at 2:30 pm


Victoria Symphony


Farquhar at UVic
University Farquhar Auditorium, Ring Road
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2 Canada
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Concert Programme

  • Cassandra Miller
    Premiere VS/VSO co-commission with the support of Hugh Davidson Fund at the Victoria Foundation
  • Rodrigo
    Concierto de Aranjuez
  • Beethoven
    Symphony No. 7 in A major