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Kluxen – Pictures at an Exhibition

17 September 2023 @ 2:30 pm

Prepare to be enchanted! Christian Kluxen showcases the seductive charms of Richard Strauss and the dark beauty of Sibelius, the latter in the company of the B.C.-born concertmaster of the TSO, Jonathan Crow. Then promenade through the pictures framed by the imagination of Mussorgsky in an exhibition of musical majesty!

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

Concert underwritten by Natexa Verbrugge and Commodore & Mrs. Jan Drent
Jonathan Crow 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.”


Jonathan Crow, violin

One of Canada’s brightest talents, violinist Jonathan Crow exudes “masterful coolness” (The Montreal Gazette) as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan earned his Bachelor of Music in Honours Performance from McGill University, at which time he joined the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal as Associate Principal Second Violin. Between 2002 and 2006, Jonathan was engaged as Concertmaster of that symphony, and notably during his tenure, was the youngest concertmaster of a major North American orchestra. In 2011 he was appointed Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan continues to perform as guest concertmaster with orchestras around the world, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Filarmonia de Lanaudiere and Pernambuco Festival Orchestra (Brazil). Jonathan has also performed as a soloist with most major Canadian orchestras including the Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, the National Arts Centre and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestras, the Victoria, Nova Scotia and Kingston Symphonies, and Orchestra London, under the baton of such conductors as Charles Dutoit, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Gustavo Gimeno, Sir Andrew Davis, Peter Oundjian, Kent Nagano, Mario Bernardi and João Carlos Martins.

Jonathan joined the Schulich School of Music at McGill University as an Assistant Professor of Violin and was appointed Associate Professor of Violin in 2010. Current and former students of Mr. Crow have received prizes at competitions around the world, including the Menuhin International Violin Competition, Montreal Symphony Orchestra Competition, Shean Competition, CBC Radio’s NEXT competition, Eckhardt-Grammatte Competition, Canadian Music Competition, and Stulberg International String Competition, and work regularly with orchestras such as the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Camerata Salzburg, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Verbier Chamber Orchestra, Vienna Kammerphilharmonie and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan is currently Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Toronto.

In 2016 Jonathan was named Artistic Director of Toronto Summer Music, which has enjoyed record attendance and rave reviews in all of his first six seasons. An avid chamber musician, he has performed at chamber music festivals throughout North America, South America and Europe including the Banff, Ravinia, Orford, Domaine Forget, Seattle, Montreal, Ottawa, Incontri in Terra di Sienna, Alpenglow, Festival Vancouver, Pernambuco (Brazil), Giverny (France) and Strings in the Mountains festivals. He is a founding member of the Juno Award-winning New Orford String Quartet, a project-based new ensemble dedicated to the promotion of standard and Canadian string quartet repertoire throughout North America. As an advocate of contemporary music he has premiered works by Canadian composers Michael Conway Baker, Eldon Rathburn, Barrie Cabena, Gary Kulesha, Tim Brady, Francois Dompierre, Vivian Fung, Ana Sokolovic, Marjan Mozetich, Christos Hatzis, Ernest MacMillan and Healey Willan. He also includes in his repertoire major concerti by such modern composers as Ligeti, Schnittke, Bernstein, Brian Cherney, Rodney Sharman, Vivian Fung and Cameron Wilson.

Jonathan has recorded for ATMA, Bridge, CBC, Oxingale, Skylark, and XXI-21 labels and is heard frequently on Chaîne Culturelle of Radio-Canada, CBC Radio Two, and National Public Radio, along with Radio France, Deutsche Welle, Hessischer Rundfunk and the RAI in Europe.



One of Victoria Symphony music director Christian Kluxen’s many strengths is his ability to compose a great concert program. It’s about balancing a selection of ingredients, he says, comparing his curatorial process to the way a Michelin-starred chef might go about assembling a tasting menu. Ideally there would be both complementary and contrasting flavours, but beyond that there should also be a unifying theme—seasonality, perhaps, or some kind of musicological context.

For the opening concert in the orchestra’s 2023-24 season, however, Kluxen has momentarily stepped away from grand gestures or hidden threads. In this program of works by Modest Mussorgsky, Richard Strauss, and Jean Sibelius, all he needs is a strong soloist, a full complement of musicians, and the scores themselves.

“This is not a program where there is a thread or a theme,” he confirms, adding that for a season opener what’s more important is that there should be “a lot of power and sparkle and fun things to do for the orchestra.”

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition certainly fits the bill. Rather surprisingly for such a feast of orchestral colour, it was originally conceived as a piano suite, and only later adapted for a full ensemble. But the musician who made that adaptation was none other than Maurice Ravel, and the work’s signature combination of Slavic swagger and Parisian sophistication makes for an unbeatable season-opener.

There are depths here, too. For all of its bombast, Mussorgsky’s original composition was an extended elegy for his late friend Victor Hartmann, in the form of a programmatic walk through an imaginary gallery where the latter’s drawings and watercolours were on display. Much of Hartmann’s work was lost or destroyed during the tumult of the 20th century, but surviving examples suggest an imagination that was at times poignant, at times mysterious, and at times utterly surreal. (Bird-headed children, anyone?) Mussorgsky’s piano score followed suit, but both the suite and its symphonic variation also stress Mussorgsky’s penchant for truly memorable melodies.

Pictures at an Exhibition requires a big orchestra,” Kluxen points out, “and it’s an orchestral showpiece. So when you have these forces available, why not do another orchestral showpiece?” In this case, that’s Strauss’s Don Juan, another bold adventure in storytelling from a composer Maestro Kluxen loves dearly. Rounding out the concert is a work that’s less narratively driven and more abstract but no less of a knockout, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor, with Jonathan Crow as soloist.

Crow’s love for both the Violin Concerto and his hosts should add an extra layer of warmth to the opening-night festivities. Although he now resides in Ontario, where he teaches at the University of Toronto and serves as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, the Prince George–born musician made his professional debut while studying with the late Sydney Humphreys at the Victoria Conservatory.

“Coming back is always special,” Crow confides. “Sydney Humphreys was a huge part of my musical growth, and he knew the conductor of the Victoria Symphony, Peter McCoppin, very well. He introduced us, and that set up a long relationship for me. I had a number of opportunities to perform with McCoppin, and actually went on tour with the orchestra when I was 16 and did the Brahms concerto with them 10 times in a row!”

As for the notoriously demanding Sibelius concerto, Crow says that he’s known it since his student days but it’s only now, in his 40s, that he feels ready to do it justice. “I actually played it for the first time three or four years ago, maybe in 2019, with the Toronto Symphony and a bunch of times with smaller orchestras around Toronto—and I really enjoyed it.

“One of the things I really love about the piece is the story behind it,” he adds, addressing the notion that Sibelius, a good but not great violinist, wrote it as a kind of wish-fulfillment exercise, imagining that it was how he would sound if only he could. “And then the premiere was just such a disaster. The violin player was not very good, and nobody liked the piece… I think Sibelius was quite hurt by that.”

Rather than abandon ship, however, the Finnish composer went home, rewrote his concerto, and emerged with a masterpiece.

“It’s got all of the things, right?” Crow says. “You’ve got the violin, which starts on this beautiful, soaring tune on the E string, and then it’s got passagework which is phenomenally virtuosic. Then you’ve got the same tune on the G string…Sibelius knew how to use the registers of the violin and make it sound its best, and he knew how to write a great tune. He a very good composer at the height of his craft, writing for the instrument that he knew best.”

The violinist adds that while some passages of the Violin Concerto in D minor are undeniably angst-ridden, Sibelius’s instrumental alter ego draws on this darkness to effect a startling transformation. “Yes, there is doubt in this piece, and then he comes to the conclusion that it’s not all dark,” he says. “It ends in a very bright way, and the light kind of emerges triumphant.”

So perhaps there is a hidden theme to this gala event, after all: the return of music, in a big way, after the privations of the pandemic years.

Notes by Alex Varty

Richard Strauss (1864—1949)
Don Juan, Op. 20

Jean Sibelius (1865—1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
Allegro moderato
Adagio di molto
Allegro ma non tanto


Modest Mussorgsky (1839—1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. Ravel)
The Gnome
The Old Castle
Tuileries – Children’s Quarrel after Games
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle
The Marketplace at Limoges
Catacombae: Sepulchrum romanum
With the Dead in a Dead Language
The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga)
The Great Gate of Kiev

STRAUSS: Don Juan (scrolling score)
Performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan


MUSSORGSKY: “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition
Performed by Tyrolean festival Erl Orchestra
Conductor: Gustav Kuhn


17 September 2023
starts at 2:30 pm


Victoria Symphony


Royal Theatre
805 Broughton St + Google Map

Concert Programme

  • R. Strauss
    Don Juan
  • Sibelius
    Violin Concerto in D minor
  • Mussorgsky
    Pictures at an Exhibition