The Viola

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When you come to the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on Friday, February 23, at 7:30 p.m. to hear Anna Petrova accompany Molly Carr playing her viola, you may not sense a great difference between that experience and a violin concert. There are, nevertheless, enough differences to make this a very special performance, unique in the history of the Valley Concert Society.

Physically, the viola is slightly larger than a violin, the strings are slightly thicker, and the bow is shorter and heavier than a violin bow, enabling the violist to apply greater pressure to the strings.

In terms of sound, the ranges of the two instruments share considerable overlap, although the violin can play a little higher, and the viola can play a little lower. For example, when you hear Amy Beach’s beautiful Romance for Violin and Piano on Friday, Molly will play in the same key as a violinist would play. The sound, however, will be deeper and richer, as contrasted with the violin’s brighter sound.

The biggest difference between the two instruments is the way they are used. The violin is typically the star of the show. Violin solos are far more common than viola solos. The violin often has the melody while the viola is used a great deal to provide the harmony, so while people are more likely to notice the violins in an orchestra, if you were to remove the violas, the music would lose a great deal of richness and beauty.

While you have heard of countless famous violinists, it will be difficult to come up with a comparable list of violists because so much more music has been written for solo violin than music that features the viola. But you have surely heard of the most famous violist, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He loved the instrument and wrote an achingly beautiful Sinfonia Concertante which features the violin and viola in a magical duet.

A list of the greatest violists in history must include Rebecca Clarke whose great Sonata for Viola and Piano will conclude the concert on Friday.

The viola repertoire is growing. You will hear two works commissioned by the Carr-Petrova Duo. Vivian Fung composed Prayer based on music by Hildegard von Bingen and created an arrangement for the duo. Andrea Casarrubios wrote Magnitude in recognition of the duo’s contributions in refugee camps around the world and in Palestine particularly.

Tickets for this one-of-a-kind concert are available online at at $32 for adults/seniors and $20 for students. For more information call 604-289-3377.

I look forward to seeing you at the concert.

John Wiebe - President
The Valley Concert Society