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Kluxen – Bach, Prokofiev, and Mozart

19 November 2023 @ 2:30 pm

In 1747, Bach impressed Frederick the Great with The Musical Offering. Years later, Webern was inspired to reframe Bach’s famous 6-voice fugue with a pointillistic pen, illustrating genius at a whole new level. The romantic second movement of the Violin Concerto No. 2 foreshadows Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet—he created both on the cusp of leaving the West for life under the Soviets. A similar range of Sturm und Drang colours Mozart’s “Little G minor symphony,” which completes the program.

Sundays at the Farquhar Series underwritten by Harry & Julie Swain
Concert underwritten by Helen Stuart & Jill Gibson

Terence Tam underwritten by Sandra Lackenbauer

Christian Kluxen, conductor

Now in his seventh season as Music Director of the Victoria Symphony, sixth season as Chief Conductor of the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic, and first season as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Turku Philharmonic, Christian Kluxen is regarded as one of the most exciting conductors to emerge from Scandinavia. Born in Copenhagen in 1981 to Danish-German parents, Kluxen has a natural affinity towards the Germanic and Scandinavian repertoire, particularly the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Nielsen, and Sibelius.

In the press he has been described as “a dynamic, charismatic figure” who “forms the music with an impressive vertical power of emotion and a focus on the grand form”, conducting “with exemplary clarity and a heavenly warmth.” From Canada, to Finland, and Norway, Maestro Kluxen has been recognized for his sincere and transparent leadership, innovative programming, and his bold, imaginative, and energetic interpretations.

Alongside his many and varied commitments with APO, Turku Philharmonic, and Victoria Symphony, recent and forthcoming guest engagements include Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Odense Symphony, and Norrköping Symphony. On the operatic stage, Kluxen has conducted extensive tours of Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly with the Danish National Opera, followed by his Berlin conducting debut with Die Zauberflöte at Komische Oper. In 2017, he led highly successful performances of Die Fledermaus with Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, and Ariadne auf Naxos with Arctic Opera and Philharmonic. In 2019, he led two full productions of Bizet’s Carmen; in Denmark at Opera Hedeland and in Norway with Arctic Opera and Philharmonic.

Kluxen’s concerts have been broadcast live in Denmark, the UK, Sweden, Norway and Canada. He has received several prestigious awards and prizes, and in 2016 he was nominated by the International Opera Awards as “Young Conductor of the Year.”


Terence Tam, violin 

Consistently praised for his intense musicality and impressive technique, Canadian violinist Terence Tam has performed in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Europe and Japan as a recitalist and chamber musician. Currently concertmaster of the Victoria Symphony, he also previously held this prestigious position with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in Australia and Symphony Nova Scotia in Canada. Tam has appeared as a concerto soloist with orchestras in Canada including those in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax.  An active chamber musician, Tam’s performances have taken him to many festivals including those presented by the  Montreal Symphony, Sitka, Pender Harbour, Sarasota, Ravinia, Meadowmount, Banff, Aspen, Encore, Hamptons, Scotiafest, Sweetwater, Music in the Morning and La Conner music festivals. Tam made his New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1994 and his Paris concerto debut in 2000 playing the Ligeti Violin Concerto with the Academy of 20th Century Music Orchestra.  His CD recording of composer Wim Zwaag’s Violin Concerto with the Victoria Symphony was chosen as one of CBC In Concert’s best classical recordings of 2011.

Mr. Tam’s musical studies took place at Toronto’s Glenn Gould School, Baltimore’s Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University and Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Music School in Germany.

NOVEMBER 19, 2023


Casual listeners can be forgiven for not immediately grasping the links between Johann Sebastian Bach’s Ricercar à 6, Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, and Wolfgang Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor. For that, it would help to have a little otaku in one’s nature, as may well be the case with Victoria Symphony music director Christian Kluxen.

“If you are a nerd,” the conductor says, grinning, “you will see that there’s a kind of G minor theme between the two halves, right?”

There’s also at least a superficial similarity between the Ricercar’s opening motif and the Violin Concerto’s introduction, as Kluxen demonstrates by singing them in a serviceable baritone. “And I’ve always thought that Mozart and Prokofiev fit very well together in the imagination,” he continues, contending that they share a “sweet, miniature humour which is discreet and delicately served.”

Bach and Mozart—one high-minded and devout, the other heretical and prank-prone—are less likely bedfellows, but Kluxen believes that in this engaging program he’s found a way to have them coexist in happy proximity. “For some reason Prokofiev makes Bach and Mozart come together in a way, and I just think it’s wonderful,” he says. “It’s really one of my favourite programs. Simple, classy, new, not seen before: I really like it.”

For all that the Russian member of this triumvirate has been given the role of go-between, there’s little that’s diplomatic or demure about his contribution to the program. “The Prokofiev concerto is really a monster in the repertoire,” Kluxen says, and soloist Terence Tam does not argue the point.

“It is a very physical concerto, especially the last movement,” the Victoria Symphony’s concertmaster agrees. “It’s just this nonstop piece that kind of tumbles into the ending. The third movement, particularly, I think of as this kind of fiendish dance, almost a Russian beer-hall kind of theme, even though there are castanets in there too. People talk about it having kind of a Spanish theme, and I think it was premiered in Madrid. So perhaps that’s why there’s a little bit of a Spanish influence there, although to me that’s the only thing that sounds Spanish about it at all.”

Tam might be overlooking the fact that Prokofiev’s wife, the singer Carolina Codina, was Spanish. But he’s correct about the premiere: Robert Soetens, a frequent Prokofiev collaborator, was the soloist when the Violin Concerto No. 2 made its debut, in 1935, in the Spanish capital. It was a pivotal time for the composer, and the concerto’s success may have fed into the optimism he felt about returning to Russia, then under Joseph Stalin’s control, in 1936. “I care nothing for politics—I’m a composer first and last,” he wrote at the time. “Any government that lets me write my music in peace, publishes everything I composed before the ink is dry, and performs every note that comes from my pen is all right with me. In Europe, we all have to fish for performances, cajole conductors and theatre directors; in Russia they come to me. I can hardly keep up with the demand.”

As we all know, Prokofiev badly misjudged the situation in his native land, and was lucky to escape the Soviet purges of the 1930s and ’40s. It’s possible, though, that his nostalgia for the country that he left in 1918 might have coloured the Violin Concerto No. 2, which he began in Paris and finished in Baku. “The first and second movements are incredibly lyrical, and very Romantic as well,” Tam observes, although he shies away from any definitive conclusion. “It’s either a yearning to be back in Russia, or a yearning for the time that he wasn’t in Russia,” the violinist says. “Maybe it’s that he’s finding his roots with the Russian people again, or something like that. I’m not really sure.”

Also unclear is whether Prokofiev was already paying heed to Stalin’s dictum that Soviet music should be “heroic, bright, and beautiful”. The dictator certainly disapproved of non-representational art, and the Violin Concerto No. 2 is generally considered the first step in Prokofiev’s move away from his more formalist concerns. Just as the Viennese echt-modernist Anton Webern was looking back when he interpreted Bach’s Ricercar à 6 for the 20th century, the Russian composer was reappraising his own artistic lineage in this transitional work. “With the second movement,” Tam says, “if you just listen to the theme itself, you would never imagine it’s Prokofiev, right? You’d think ‘Oh, this is some other great Russian Romantic composer. It could be… who knows? It could be Tchaikovsky.

“I first heard it when I was a teenager,” the violinist continues, “and I was like ‘Oh my god, this is amazing, because it’s a side of Prokofiev that we don’t really see.’”

With its tumbling intensity, however, that final movement couldn’t have been written by anyone other than Prokofiev. Similarly Webern, even channelling Bach, could never be anyone other than Webern, and Mozart was always his irrepressible self. Truly great composers might bow to the dictates of their time, but their music transcends its moment.

Notes by Alex Varty

J. S. Bach (1770—1827)
The Musical Offering, BWV 1079 – Fuga (Ricercar a 6) 
(orch. Webern) 

Serge Prokofiev (1890—1953) 
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63
Allegro moderato
Andante assai
Allegro; ben marcato


W. A. Mozart (1756—1791)
Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K.183
Allegro con brio
Menuetto – Trio

MOZART: Symphony No. 25 in G minor
Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Trevor Pinock


PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 2
Performed by Ray Chen (who is one of VS Concertmaster Terence Tam’s favourite violinists) with the KBS Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Yowl Levi


19 November 2023
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

  • J.S. Bach (orch. Webern)
    The Musical Offering – Ricercar à 6
  • Prokofiev
    Violin Concerto No. 2
  • Mozart
    Symphony No. 25 in G minor