Adoration from Beethoven and contrition from Brahms will be served up at the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s first performance of the season.
The Beautiful Brahms and Beethoven concert, on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre, will consist of one work from each composer: Brahm’s Double Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Cello will be performed, as will Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6.
While both pieces spring from different wells of deep emotion, RDSO music director Claude Lapalme said the symphony is far cheerier — which might surprise those who associate Brahms with soothing lullabies and Beethoven with more tumultuous works.
Lapalme is a huge Beethoven fan.
He considers him to be one of the most original composers who ever lived for his unique turns of phrase and passionate, descriptive style, which was the precursor to Romanticism.
“I think you should do Beethoven’s symphonies as often as you can . . . and since we haven’t done this one for something like 14 years, I thought we’d put it right up front,” said Lapalme.
The cantankerous Beethoven isn’t remembered as a people-person. But he adored nature, said Lapalme, who believes his sixth symphony is the closest the composer ever came to writing nature poetry.
He even chose evocative titles for each of the five movements, such as Scene at the Creek, Joyful Reunion of Peasants and The Tempest.
Lapalme believes Beethoven’s 1807 Pastoral Symphony continues to be enjoyed for its “rustic feeling” — probably why it was used for the Disney animated film Fantasia. (The symphony plays during the Ancient Greek segment, featuring centaurs and unicorns.)
As for the Brahms piece, he wrote his Double Concerto in 1887 as a gesture of reconciliation towards an estranged friend, the renowned violinist Joseph Joachim.
Brahms and Joachim had been inseparable — the composer even lived for a time in the violinist’s household — but Lapalme said their decades-long friendship ruptured when Joachim petitioned to divorce his wife, the mezzo-soprano Amalie Weiss.
Brahms sided with Weiss because he couldn’t believe Joachim’s accusations of infidelity.
But when Brahms’ supportive letters were presented by Weiss during the public divorce proceedings, Joachim “felt a bit stabbed in the back,” added Lapalme.
Consequently, Brahms wrote an “I’m sorry piece” for the violinist and it did patch up the friendship, said Lapalme — although he doesn’t believe they were as close as previous.
Regardless, the world benefitted. “It’s very, very rare to have a concerto for two different instruments,” said Lapalme. “It’s not something that’s common in 19th-century music.”
The Double Concerto has caught on over the years. The only hurdle — in one critic’s opinion — is lining up two equally matched soloists on cello and violin.
But Lapalme believes he’s found two similarly gifted players — Annette-Barbara Vogel on violin and Beth Root Sandvoss on cello.
Sandvoss, of Bragg Creek, is a member of the University of Calgary String Quartet and the acclaimed Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, which has twice won a Western Canadian Music Awards.
The Wisconsin-born cellist studied at the University of Wisconsin and Cleveland Institute of Music and was a member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. She is now a faculty member at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College Conservatory and recently toured China and Portugal.
Vogel often performs with Sandvoss and is a professor at the University of Western Ontario. Born and raised in Germany, Vogel was among the youngest to enrol at the prestigious Folkwang-Hochschule conservatory in Essen at age 11. She made her orchestra debut at 12.
Having studied at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, she has won numerous international violin competition awards and has performed throughout Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and Asia.
Vogel also founded the Magisterra-lnternational Chamber Music Festival, and has recorded on the Harmonia Mundi and Cybele labels.