Brahms’ Double Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello is a piece of music that ponders the resolution of differences.
Written by the composer in the final decade of his life as a gesture of reconciliation towards an estranged friend, the piece brings together the unlikely duo of the high-register violin and the deep cello.
Throughout the piece the instruments are in conversation, responding to one another’s phrases and sometimes finishing each other’s musical sentences, all the while shifting from the sad minor and happy major keys as they search for agreement.
The composition will be one of four performed at the Vancouver Island Symphony’s 3 Bs – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms concert at the Port Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 17 and conductor Pierre Simard has chosen another differing duo in the solo roles: principal violinist Calvin Dyck and principal cellist Marina Hasselberg.
At first it seems that Simard could not have picked a pair with less in common. Dyck, at 19 seasons, is the symphony’s longest-tenured member, while Hasselberg is in her first year as the ensemble’s chief cello. Dyck chiefly plays classical music, which Hasselberg is a celebrated member of Vancouver’s avant-garde scene. Dyck was born in Vancouver while Hasselberg hails from Portugal. Now, as they prepare for their upcoming performance, they are directly collaborating for the first time.
“We come from different training, different ethnic background, different cultures, really, but this piece brings us together and so undoubtedly there’ll be some unique ideas,” Dyck said.
“The interesting thing is that if it wasn’t for this piece, we might never have an opportunity to play together. How would our paths otherwise cross?”
Both musicians are performing the work for the first time. Hasselberg said she was at first hesitant to take on the project.
“Concertos are show-off pieces. They feature all these technical skills of performers and therefore they are really, really hard to play so people need a long time to prepare them,” she said.
“It has been a year of practice already and there’s still a lot to do. I had to actually not accept any invitations to play concerts. Between Jan. 1 and the day of the Brahms I’m only doing two different projects instead of the dozens that I usually do just so I can focus on it.”
Hasselberg and Dyck have been rehearsing together since late January, co-ordinating their vision for the concerto.
“The challenge for musicians is always to find something in the music that means something to us so that hopefully when we perform it it’s more than notes but it’s an expression partly of what Brahms said and partly of who we are,” Dyck said.
“It’s our interpretation,” Hasselberg added.
“That’s why performers are artists too, because we not only do what the composer asks us, we have to add more to it and that’s where we can get creative.”
WHAT’S ON … Vancouver Island Symphony presents 3 Bs – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms at the Port Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. Tickets available at the Port Theatre box office ranging from $33 to $54 for adults, $18 for students, $5 eyeGO passes.