What is Octagon?
Octagon is Canada's "all-star" Chamber ensemble - created in 1998 to present a rarely heard [but monumental] repertoire of works that lie half way between the two worlds of chamber music and small orchestra.
The names of Octagon's members read like a catalogue of Canadian instrumental virtuosity, and include violinists Andrew Dawes, Angèle Dubeau, Patricia Shih and Nancy Mathis Dinova, violins; Violist, Rivka Golani; 'cellists Antonio Lysy, Amanda Forsyth and Carole Sirois; bassists Joel Quarrington and Wilmer Fawcett; clarinetist James Campbell, French horn, Kenneth MacDonald and Martin Hackleman; and bassoonist George Zukerman.
OCTAGON's impressive array features well known international touring soloists, as well as the Principal players of two of Canada's major Symphony Orchestras and the leader of Canada's Borealis String uartet. The prestigious ensemble includes three holders of the Order of Canada and four recipients of recent season Juno awards. Octagon has toured bi-annually since its inception in 1998. In 2003, Octagon was the recipient of the annual Killburn award at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
OCTAGON's repertoire is fashioned around two great works of Beethoven [The Septet, Opus 20] and Schubert [the Octet, Op 166] "Every nation has its stellar ensemble performing these great works," stated founder and coordinator, bassoonist George Zukerman "In the UK it was the Melos Ensemble; in Austria the Vienna Philharmonic Octet; in Berlin, the Berlin Octet - and now in Canada, OCTAGON.
In 2003, OCTAGON commissioned Malcolm Forsyth to write a "Concerto for Eight" featuring each of the players in OCTAGON. The work was completed and premiered at a gala concert for Her Excellency the [then] Governor General, Adrianne Clarkson on April 13, 2003. The work has since been performed regularly on OCTAGON tours.
Bassoonist George Zukerman acts as coordinator of the complex scheduling of OCTAGON. "Juggling the touring time-tables of five international touring artists, one leader of a string quartet and two Principal members of major symphony Orchestras never promised to be a picnic!" he stated. "Over the course of three years we have only lost two members of what we call the 'original Broadway cast'. It's a tribute to the way each member of OCTAGON feels about the ensemble," he commented. "It's a rare opportunity for each us to work with colleagues of similar experience and similar approach to these great masterworks which are otherwise so seldom performed."