Monday, May 11, 2020
Marc Destrubé — Thomas Baltzar in isolation
My connection with violinist Marc Destrubé and our eventual friendship began with my introduction to live baroque music with period instruments in 1996. My wife, two daughters and I went to Ryerson United Church in Kerrisdale for a Pacific Baroque Orchestra (directed my Marc Destrubé) that featured the Vivaldi Gloria RV 589. What made this most special is that the chorus, was the all-female Elektra Women’s Choir. The soloist were the red-haired sisters Caitlin (Alto) and Phoebe MacRae, soprano.
Magazine photography has given me access to people that were I in an audience would make it all but impossible. And that is how I finally met Destrubé and at the small, relatively unknown cellar room of the Villa del Lupo Restaurant we dined on ostrich and sipped on Sancerre. Destrubé explained to this amateur the significance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Of Destrubé I have written various blogs:
But I cannot stress how this man who oozes with elegance might not have been a musician had someone discovered his radio voice and teaching skills. Listening to Destrubé talk and tell us that the horse hairs used to make violin bows come from male horses because the female horses urinate and damage their hair is special.
And then there are those moments where by his ready smile I dare to ask him stuff that I would never ask. At a rehearsal of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra at the St. James Community Centre on 10th and Trutch some years ago I asked him, “Could I lie on my back under the harpsichord during the practice?”
His, “Yes,” has made that experience one to savour in my memory over and over.
Few in Vancouver might know that Destrubé who is the musical director of many groups in Europe and has at least two quartets that he fronts here in Vancouver had a career rise that happened because of a man who made a fortune writing about tropical goldfish. The man was called Herbert R. Axelrod (he died in 2017) and with is fortune he purchased a beautiful quartet (with lovely scrolling) of Stradivarius instruments that he donated to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian displays them in one of their museums (I made a pilgrimage some years ago to see them) and founded the Axelrod Quartet whose leader happens to be our very own Destrubé.
The quartet did play here once but the price for insuring those instruments for travel is so high that they can only be played in Washington.
Are we lucky to have such a man with us? Even though he has a shoe fetish and a like for French cars I will not let that modify my high opinion of the man.
Now Destrube has brought us this lovely rendition of Thomas Baltzar.
Of playing the violin this is what Destrubé has written for the this series of musical offerings in isolation sponsored by Early Music Vancouver:
“I consider my work as a violinist and musician more as that of a craftsperson than of an artist, working on musical possibilities (longer/shorter, louder/softer, faster/slower, brighter/darker) in order to best represent (re-present, or ‘make present’) and re-create music for audiences.
My self-motivating project during this strange time is to work my way through Bach’s six sonatas and partitas for solo violin, performing each one on a bi-weekly basis over several evenings for a very small group of well-distanced neighbours and local friends in my large space on Bowen Island.
It gets me practicing every morning, and it gives them a brief break from their video screens, and an opportunity to experience some music in three dimensions and with others.”
“Many musicians turn to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for consolation. The way Bach’s music combines structural integrity with deep humanity, emotional expression with formal rigour, leaves us feeling like better people for having played or listened to it.
I’m inspired by the great cellist Pablo Casals who, when asked in his 80s why he still practiced Bach’s cello suites every day, replied: “I think I notice some improvement.”
Having spent most of my life making music with others and for others, this current bizarre interruption gives me an opportunity to work on my craft, and to finally really immerse myself in these six amazing and difficult works, with the hope that I will emerge a better player and musician once concert life returns.”
“Music is unique among the arts in its ability to express contrasting emotions concurrently. Through the experience of making and listening to music we can feel optimism for the future along with nostalgia for the past, all while living with the uncertainty of our present situation.”
And from Matthew White — Artistic & Executive Director of Early Music Vancouver there is this:
This week, EMV is pleased to share the first of several online offerings that we will be introducing over the coming weeks. A Musical Offering is a collection of twelve portraits, personal reflections, live performances, and recommendations from regular EMV collaborators. We are thrilled to begin the series with violinist Marc Destrubé, former Music Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and one of the organization’s closest friends. To help frame this project, Vancouver-based photojournalist Alec Jacobson has created portraits of our collaborators that serve as windows into their private worlds.
Of Musical Offerings White writes:
In 1747, Frederik the Great invited 62-year-old J.S. Bach to his court with a challenge: to improvise a three-part fugue on a complicated musical theme chosen by Frederik himself. To the amazement of all present, “Old Bach” met the challenge with unprecedented creativity and innovation. Bach sent the King The Musical Offering, a collection of canons and fugues, and a trio sonata all dedicated to exploring and exhausting the contrapuntal possibilities of the same musical theme. Hundreds of years later this masterpiece is still celebrated as an unparalleled showcase of boundless imagination and profound depth of expression within defined parameters.
In the spirit of the challenge set to J.S. Bach, EMV have asked friends and collaborators to share how they are expanding the boundaries of their creativity as they navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For this project, Vancouver-based photojournalist Alec Jacobson has created portraits of our collaborators, showing them practicing their art in this strange new world. To accompany these photos, each of the featured collaborators has also provided EMV with a written statement, an excerpt of them performing, and a link to something else that they would like to share with you.
Through this curated series, EMV’s A Musical Offering reminds us that despite our social isolation, music has the capacity to keep us connected and engaged while we are physically apart.