On the surface, the main attraction of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s weekend concerts is the chance to hear Philippe Quint lead a select group of musicians through Antonio Vivaldi’s deathless The Four Seasons. Instrument fetishists will also be interested to know that the Russian-born conductor-performer should have his 1708 Antonio Stradivari violin, colloquially known as the “Ruby”, with him.
For close followers of the VSO, however, there’s another good reason to attend, and that’s to witness principal flutist Christie Reside perform an unusual act of reverse alchemy when she joins Quint in Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto for Flute and Violin in E Minor.
Reside, it seems, has yet to convert to the increasingly popular notion of using period instruments to play baroque music. “I would love to explore that,” she admits, referring to the wooden transverse flute that was supplanted in the 1800s by louder and more mechanically sophisticated metal models. “I love the sound, and it would be interesting to really feel how those pieces sit on a completely different instrument. You’d have a better understanding of, I don’t know, maybe what the composers were going for. But, no: budgetwise, I’m limited in my instrument choice.”
Interviewed by phone from her Hastings-Sunrise home, Reside says that, instead, she’s going to try to bring some of the sound of the wooden flute into her performance, even if she’s using a modern-day instrument.
“It’s definitely a struggle on my modern flute to get that crispness and the exact sound that I want,” she allows. “That, and getting the more open, hollow tone colour; I mean, that’s what occupies almost all my time preparing early music. The technique on my contemporary flute, it fits pretty well and it’s pretty simple, but with the sound and the articulation, it takes a lot of focus to really get those unique qualities.”
To turn gold into wood, in other words.
“That’s a good way of putting it,” she says, laughing.
Although Reside is arguably best known as an interpreter of contemporary music, thanks to her long-time membership in the exceptional new-music sextet Standing Wave, this weekend’s performances will allow her to show a different side of her craft.
“I really like playing baroque music, as well as contemporary,” she explains. “I like these two sort of bookends on the repertoire of flute. We have a few classical pieces—those great Mozart concerti—but there’s this huge gap when flute wasn’t really being written for as a solo instrument, especially during the romantic period. I feel like both the baroque repertoire and the contemporary repertoire really show the instrument at its best. They’re two completely different styles, but they really show what the instrument can do.”
Different they may be, but there’s another element that links Reside’s work with Standing Wave—which will play a program of 21st-century works as part of the VSO’s upcoming New Music Festival in January—to the performances she’ll give with Quint. In both settings, the musicians dispense with a conductor in favour of being led from within the ensemble.
“It feels like Standing Wave minus however many hundred years,” she says of the typical baroque format. “And that’s my favourite way to play, of course, without conductor.…It’s a feeling that you’re just sort of tuned in to these musicians, and your focus is on them rather than everybody’s focus being directed to a conductor at the front. Yeah. It’s good!”
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra presents Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday and Saturday (December 15 and 16) and at New Westminster’s Massey Theatre at 2 p.m. on Sunday (December 17).