Keys to the Hometown

The renowned pianist Philip Thomson returns to NB for a concert of Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2 and Mendelssohn’s fourth symphony. Soloist Philip Thomson, piano with Maestro Michael Newnham.

May 14, 2018
Moncton: Capitol Theatre

15 mai 2018
Fredericton: The Playhouse

May 16, 2018
Saint John: Imperial Theatre

Bravo series concerts are preceded by a pre-concert talk at 6:30pm. Performance begins at 7:30pm.



The season ends with the triumphal return of Saint John Native Philip Thomson playing Shostakovich’s second piano concerto, a delightful piece written by Shostakovich for his son that is guaranteed to have the audience humming the melodies.

Also on this program is Mendelssohn’s 4th symphony and a work for strings by the NB composer Janis Kalnins


Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102, by Dmitri Shostakovich was composed in 1957 for his son Maxim’s 19th birthday. Maxim premiered the piece during his graduation at the Moscow Conservatory. It is an uncharacteristically cheerful piece, much more so than most of Shostakovich’s works.

In Fantasia 2000Yefim Bronfman plays the concerto’s first movement (Allegro) as the story teller of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Andersen. Bronfman has also recorded both of the concertos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.


Mendelssohn Symphony #4

“Italian symphony” redirects here. It is not to be confused with Italian Concerto (Bach).

The Symphony No. 4 in A majorOp. 90, commonly known as the Italian, is an orchestral symphony written by German composer Felix Mendelssohn. The work has its origins (such as the composer’s “Scottish/3rd Symphony” and “The Hebrides” overture) in the tour of Europe which occupied Mendelssohn from 1829 to 1831. Its inspiration is the colour and atmosphere of Italy, where Mendelssohn made sketches but left the work incomplete:

This is Italy! And now has begun what I have always thought… to be the supreme joy in life. And I am loving it. Today was so rich that now, in the evening, I must collect myself a little, and so I am writing to you to thank you, dear parents, for having given me all this happiness.

In February he wrote from Rome to his sister Fanny,

The Italian symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement. I have not found anything for the slow movement yet, and I think that I will save that for Naples.

The Italian Symphony was finished in Berlin on 13 March 1833, in response to an invitation for a symphony from the London (now Royal) Philharmonic Society; he conducted the first performance himself in London on 13 May 1833 at a London Philharmonic Society concert. The symphony’s success, and Mendelssohn’s popularity, influenced the course of British music for the rest of the century.[3] The Germania Musical Society of Boston gave the first performance in the United States, on 1 November 1851, with Carl Bergmann conducting.

Janis Kalnins


Janis Kalnins

Janis Kalnins was born of Latvian parents in Pernu, Estonia on November 3, 1904. His father Alfred was both a gifted composer and one of the truly great organists of Czarist Russia. Janis initially learned piano and organ from his father, and he was considered a child prodigy on both instruments.

From 1922 to 1924 Janis studied conducting and composition at the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga under Joseph Vitols, a former pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov. During these years, he also studied composition, piano, and voice in France, Germany and Italy. After graduating from the Conservatory, Janis studied conducting both with Erick Kleiber in Salzburg, and with Harmann Abenroth and Leo Blech in Berlin.

From 1923 to 1933, Kalnins served as the conductor and musical director of the Latvian National Theatre in Riga. In 1933 he was appointed conductor of the Latvian National Opera in Riga (a position that had formerly been held by Richard Wagner and by Bruno Walter). He remained with the Opera for 11 years, but spent 1944-1947 in camps for Displaced Persons inside Germany.

Kalnins immigrated to Canada in 1948, working initially as the organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s United Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 1951 Kalnins took up two new appointments. The first was as Professor of Music at Fredericton’s Teachers’ College. By the time he retired from that position 20 years later, Professor Kalnins had taught more than 700 students. The second appointment was as conductor of the Fredericton Civic Orchestra. In 1959 he joined the Saint John Symphony Orchestra and was an important part in the evolution of this group into the New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra in 1961. At that time Kalnins was appointed Principal Conductor.





Philip Thomson was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. He began piano studies at an early age with Carol O’Neil, who remained his teacher until he entered the University of Toronto as a student of the Swiss pianist Pierre Souvairan. He pursued his master’s degree in piano performance at The Juilliard School under the celebrated pianist Abbey Simon. While still a student, he was already concertizing widely in his native country; he has played with all the major orchestras and in every important center in Canada. While at Juilliard, he won that school’s Franz Liszt concerto competition, and performed the Liszt E-flat concerto in Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Mr. Thomson came to international attention in 1991, when he made the world premiere recording of Liszt’s De Profundis, a 40-minute tour-de-force whose manuscript had been kept in the Goethe-Schiller archives in Weimar, and which, astoundingly, had escaped the serious attention of musicologists for over a century and a half. Philip Thomson’s recording of this work with the Hungarian State Orchestra on the Hungaroton label won wide acclaim in musical journals throughout the world, and its success secured for him the opportunity to perform the Italian, Hungarian, Canadian, and American premieres of De Profundis during the following year. Mr. Thomson was subsequently invited by Naxos records to record three CDs of the solo music of Liszt. These recordings, released in 1995 and 1996, and containing among many other works the complete set of “Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses,” also received international critical praise. In 1998, Mr. Thomson began to research the music of Felix Blumenfeld. In his time (1863-1931), Blumenfeld was one of the most influential musical figures in Russia, well known as a pianist, composer, conductor, and teacher. For unknown reasons, the music of this pianistic genius  the teacher of Vladimir Horowitz and Simon Barere, among other titans of the era disappeared from concert halls after his death, and his works are no longer in print. Mr. Thomson was, however, able to discover and gather much of his music from several archival sources. The Ivory Classics label invited Mr. Thomson to record a CD of Felix Blumenfeld’s piano music, and the result was the release, in 2000, of the complete preludes and impromptus of this important and surprisingly neglected composer. This CD contains thirty-four works, none of which had ever been recorded before. As with Mr. Thomson’s Liszt CDs, it has garnered wide critical acclaim. Besides his coast-to-coast Canadian concertizing, Mr. Thomson has also performed in the United States, England, Ireland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and China.

Philip Thomson has been on the piano faculty of the School of Music at The University of Akron since 1994.