Three Centuries of Strings in final concert of season

A “monumental” Schubert quintet, a poetic Mozart duet, and a modern work by Lucian Berio will make up the Three Centuries of Strings concert that wraps up the RDSO Chamber Series on Sunday, May 16.

A “monumental” Schubert quintet, a poetic Mozart duet, and a modern work by Lucian Berio will make up the Three Centuries of Strings concert that wraps up the RDSO Chamber Series on Sunday, May 16.

On the weighty side of the program, slated for the First Christian Reformed Church, is Franz Schubert’s Quintet in C Major, which Red Deer Symphony Orchestra music director Claude Lapalme calls a work of monumental significance.

“It’s a staple, a landmark,” Lapalme said — the chamber equivalent of a Beethoven symphony.

The dramatic 45-minute piece was Schubert’s last instrumental composition, which the composer never lived to hear performed.

Its four movements for two cellos, two violins, and a viola, range from being melodious and energetic to slow and introspective.

The latter describes the “gorgeous” adagio movement, which Polish-American pianist Arthur Rubinstein requested be played at his funeral “because it’s the most sublime piece of music he knew,” said Lapalme.

While this quintet has become so highly regarded that Lapalme said, “you cannot call yourself a Schubert musician until you’ve done it,” the piece languished in obscurity for a quarter-century after the composer’s death, not being rediscovered until just before its Vienna debut in 1850.

The large-scale work has since become one of Schubert’s crowning achievements, and is frequently performed, despite its length and difficulty.

The concert will also feature two lighter, shorter works, including Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major.

It’s believed this lyrical piece was composed altruistically, said Lapalme, after Mozart heard his friend Michael Haydn (Joseph’s younger brother) was too ill to finish a commission for the Prince-Archbishop of the time, and was getting his salary suspended as a result.

Lapalme said there’s evidence the kind-hearted Mozart composed the remaining duos and gave them to Haydn to pass off as his own.

Although Haydn never did publish the pieces, they have lived on as proof of Mozart’s proficiency with the violin, as well as the piano.

Lapalme said The Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major is as lovely and tuneful as most of Mozart’s works. “I love those duos.”

The other short piece is comprised of a series of violin duets from Italian composer Lucian Berio, who died in 2003.

Berio’s Duetti Per Due Violini is a series of quick musical portraits of people the composer had known.

Each little sketch is named for the personality it’s based on, said Lapalme, who has chosen eight “vignettes” for the chamber musicians to perform, ranging from upbeat ones to those that are more reflective.

Each duet was written as an exercise for advanced violinists, “so while they are challenging to perform, the great advantage is they are short,” so musicians can soon move on to the next one, said a chuckling Lapalme.

This final concert of the season for the chamber series will feature violinists Naomi Delafield, Louise Stuppard and Brigit Knecht, violist Dean O’Brien, and cellists Janet Kuschak and Nigel Boehm.

Tickets for the 3 p.m. concert are $25 from Ticketmaster.

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