Violinist Yuel Yawney and pianist Libby Yu, seen here performing at the River Rock Theatre in Richmond, are closing this year’s Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival. (Photo courtesy Iconnbc)

Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival comes to Nanaimo

Performances to take place over two days at St. Paul’s Anglican Church

The ninth annual Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival comes to Nanaimo on June 21 and 22 and this year’s event will feature a reunion of two musicians who haven’t played together since the early years of the 21st century.

This spring, Vancouver-based pianist Libby Yu and violinist Yuel Yawney embarked on their Musical Milestones tour. So far, the duo has performed around the Lower Mainland, and as far as Kelowna, and on June 22 they perform at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

“It’s almost as though the years in between didn’t happen…” Yawney said. “It’s like we’ve started from where we’ve left off and it’s wonderful to reunite musically in this way.”

Yu described the partnership as a “very natural ensemble.”

“We chose some works, half of them we had played before and some of them are new works to us, but it came together with a very fresh outlook,” she said. “We both had ideas going into our rehearsals on what we wanted to give to the music, but I think our rapport has always been quite easy as a duo so it’s been delightful.”

At the Nanaimo concert, Yu and Yawney will perform Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in F major, French composer Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano and a surprise encore.

Yu said the Mozart piece is new to both of them. She said it’s one of the Austrian composer’s early sonatas.

“It’s a sparkling piece with lots of conversation between the piano and violin and it’s a great starter piece for the program,” she said.

“It’s a really beautiful, very uplifting and positive feeling to the music,” added Yawney.” It’s very fun to play together. It’s filled with lots of joy and beautiful music as well, of course.”

Yu calls Franck’s sonata “one of the masterpieces in the literature.” Franck wrote it as a wedding gift for his violinist.

“It has … lots of tender moments, a lot of conversation between violin and piano which sounds like conversations between the husband and the bride,” Yu said. “And it’s a favourite of ours. We played it together back when we were in university and it’s a really challenging piece for the piano.”

Yawney described it as one of the core pieces in the violin piano sonata repertoire and one that they both love to play.

“It’s a very expressive and very deeply emotive work,” he said. “Lots of great variety in its musical expression and depth of character. So it’s a showcase for us to really explore the meaning behind the notes a lot and share it with our audience.”

The Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival starts on Friday night with performances by the High Notes Flute Choir, followed by soprano Dorothea Hayley, with pianist Alejandro Ochoa.

Day 2 begins the following afternoon with David Michaux’s brass trio featuring trumpet, French horn and trombone. After that, cellist Claire Dresselhaus and pianist Abigail Takenaka take the stage. In the evening, Lani Krantz and Jun Rong perform on harp and ehru, respectively, and Yu and Yawney conclude the festival.

WHAT’S ON … The ninth annual Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival comes to St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 100 Chapel St., on Friday, June 21 starting at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 22 starting at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for each performance or $50 for a pass for all performances. Available at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music or at the door.

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