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It just takes two

Gabrielle Despres and Patricia Tao open St. Albert Chamber Music Society season
Violinist Gabrielle Despres, a second year student at Julliard, performs a mother-daughter duet with pianist Patricia Tao at St. Albert Chamber Music Concert on Saturday, Oct. 19.


Gabrielle Despres and Patricia Tao

Saturday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

St. Albert United Church

20 Green Grove Dr.

Tickets: $30 to $35 at Musée Heritage Museum, 5 St. Anne Street, 780-459-1528 or Art Gallery of St. Albert, 19 Perron St., 780-460-4310


St. Albert Chamber Music Society has always made a point of introducing duos who shape their performances as equals. Both musicians split the spotlight so they jointly shine.

But there is something quite special about the interconnected, energetic and collaborative spirit of pianist Patricia Tao and violinist Gabrielle Despres, 19.

They are mother and daughter, respectively.

“We’ve been doing it so long. When you see siblings or parents and children playing together, there’s something natural about it. There’s an unusual synergy that comes naturally. Rehearsals and practices have an easy familiarity that you enjoy,” said Tao, a professor of music at the University of Alberta.

Depres, now in her second year at Julliard, has performed with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the national Shean Competition.

For the chamber music society, it was a stroke of luck to pair these two incandescent performers for the opening concert of its 10th season. The recital takes place Saturday, Oct. 19, at St. Albert United Church.

Their partnership spans more than a decade since Depres began her violin studies at age three. Considered a virtuoso at a young age, she displayed a sensitive and adaptable style as the young violinist quickly learned to breathe, phrase and communicate.

Tao explains their easy-going chemistry goes a long way to producing satisfying results.

“She’s not just an accomplished musician. She’s a collaborator and it’s a wonderful feeling to play with my daughter.”

The duo opens the concert with Beethoven’s Violin-Piano sonata in C minor, Op. 30 no. 2. It is one of the grandest in the violin repertoire and is a work of drama, passion and power.

“It’s intense and dark. The key of C minor is always tragic. It’s very crafted, powerful and emotional, and there is a lot of dialogue between piano and violin,” Tao said.

Immediately following is Claude Debussy’s romantic Sonata for violin and piano. Written during the First World War while the composer was dying of cancer, it surprisingly radiates an inner light and traffics in joy.

“It’s a big contrast to Beethoven. It’s about colour and character, not necessarily personal emotion."

The duo also performs a transcription of Ernest Chausson’s sonata originally written for orchestra and violin. The final composition is a Depres showpiece that borrows violin-focused themes from the opera Carmen.

“She’s a very intelligent musician. She thinks about what she is going to do. Sometimes musicians don’t want to change what they play. But she’s very flexible. She has a beautiful sound and strong technical ability.”

Tao adds the broad program is filled with variety.

“For those who like traditional classical music, we have Beethoven. For those who enjoy fireworks, we have Carmen at the end and in the middle we have the French romantics awash in colour.”

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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