The Sonata Project traces violin's heart

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We’re not sure whether violinist Marc Destrubé subscribes to the notion that if you can’t please everyone, you’ve got to please yourself—but that certainly seems to be the philosophy behind the Sonata Project, a series of four Early Music Vancouver concerts that opens on Friday (November 27) at Unity Church.

The series, which continues on January 8, April 9, and May 7, 2010, surveys the history of the violin sonata from its beginnings in the early 17th century through to the romantic masterworks of the 19th. On the surface, it seems to be a perfectly pedagogical undertaking—a chance to study the evolution of European art music in an especially intimate setting. But as Destrubé explains, his first concern when programming the Sonata Project was to find music that he’d be completely happy to play.

“I’m at the time in my life where life has become too short to play mediocre music,” the West Vancouver–based performer explains from Washington, D.C., where he’s rehearsing with the Axelrod String Quartet, one of the resident ensembles at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. “I only want to play very good music, or great music.”

Asked what input his colleague and keyboardist Alexander Weimann provided, Destrubé continues in a similar vein. “Essentially, agreeing with everything that I wanted to play,” he says, laughing. “We had a short discussion about what we’d like to do, and he was willing to go along with just about everything.”

But it’s not just Weimann’s tractability that has endeared him to the violinist. The two met when booked to perform at Festival Vancouver in 2006, and they formed an immediate bond.

“After about 10 minutes of playing together, I turned to him in frustration and said, ”˜Why don’t you live down the street?’ ” Destrubé says of the German-born Montreal resident. “We seemed to work together so easily and compatibly. And of course the fact that he’s now directing the Pacific Baroque Orchestra is a great help, logistically. We’re able to play together much more often.”

Musical compatibility is, of course, paramount in duet playing. And in addition to the burgeoning friendship, Weimann shares Destrubé’s belief that to perform historical music accurately, it’s necessary to use period-correct instruments. In the first of the four Sonata concerts, Destrubé will employ a violin made in the 1690s, while Weimann will use an early Italian harpsichord, a later, double-manual instrument from France, and a portative organ, all borrowed from the Early Music Vancouver collection.

“The instruments themselves give one a lot of information about how to play the music, because of their particular set of abilities and limitations,” says Destrubé. “I make a point of trying to respect the composers’ intentions”¦by finding out as much as possible about the music, the composer, and the style. And then playing my heart out, of course.”

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