Natasha Gauthier’s Top 3 NACO and Dance picks

In season studded with household names like Ax, Bell and Branford Marsalis, here are three gems that are less famous, but no less dazzling:

1. John Storgårds is NACO’s Principal Guest Conductor, but he’s also a top-shelf violinist. On Oct. 14, as part of this fall’s Ideas of North Festival, Shelley conducts Storgårds in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. They’ll also perform Graal Théâtre by Finnish composer and synesthete Kaija Saariaho, a violin concerto she says was inspired by Arthurian legend. Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 makes the evening a Finnish hat trick.

2. We’ll hear more violin pyrotechnics January 10-11, when NACO Associate Concertmaster Jessica Linnebach plays the Bartok Concerto. Solti Award-winner Karina Canellakis will be on the podium. The 35-year-old New Yorker — yet another double-threat violin virtuoso — has been called a revelation. It’s a mystery that she hasn’t been offered her own orchestra yet (she left her position as Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Symphony at the end of her contract last year.) In Ottawa, she’ll also be conducting the Dvorak Seventh Symphony and Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture.

3. In 2011, an ebullient 18-year-old Italian pianist named Beatrice Rana became the youngest-ever winner of the Montreal International Competion. Two years later, she took the silver medal at the Van Cliburn. On April 4 and 6, she’ll play Brahms First Concerto with Shelley conducting. On video, Rana is a terrifically exciting young artist; there’s something about her intensity, fiery style, and preternatural confidence that bring to mind a young Argerich. Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Ravel’s orchestration of Schumann’s Carnaval round out the program.

Meanwhile over in Dance, Cathy Levy has put together one of the biggest programs in years. Here are three not-to-be-missed shows.

1. Since Pina Bausch’s death in 2009, the Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers have continued her legacy by touring her works all over the world. Sept. 28-30, they bring a spectacular double bill to Ottawa: Bausch’s seminal 1975 Rite of Spring, performed to live Stravinsky by NACO, and her still-fresh 1978 Café Müller.

2. Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen danced his solo Rite of Spring at the NAC in 2006; it was easily one of the most original, memorable contemporary dance performances I’ve seen in the past decade. Oct. 4-5, he takes part in the Ideas of North Festival with his new work, Morphed, for seven male dancers, set to music by his countryman Esa-Pekka Salonen.

3. Canadian choreographer Aaron S. Watkin is one of our big international dance success stories. The National Ballet alum has been the Artistic Director of the aristocratic Semperoper Ballett Dresden since 2006. He brings his gorgeous company, and his own gorgeous revision of Swan Lake, to Southam Hall Nov. 9-11.

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Natasha Gauthier has been covering classical music in Canada and the US for more than 20 years. She was the classical critic at the Ottawa Citizen, and was one of the founding critics of Montreal's HOUR Magazine. She has served on the classical music and dance juries for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. You can also read her at her blog, www.talesfromtheredchair.com. Natasha has a BA in Journalism from Concordia University.