Festival (and Winnipeg!) favourite Karl Stobbe curates a special evening of music. Learn more about what he has planned and with whom he’ll be playing! 

The Agassiz Chamber Music Festival, Connected is in full swing! The weeklong, 100% virtual celebration of chamber music excellence is officially at the midway point.

Tonight, June 2, master violinist Karl Stobbe enlists the help of some of his favourite chamber music collaborators in a concert filled with folk-flavoured flair. 

“Playing good music with friends is a great way to make a living,” says Karl Stobbe. So when festival artistic director Paul Marleyn not only welcomed Stobbe back to Agassiz but asked him to curate a concert, Stobbe was happy to oblige. 

The first piece that came to mind was one which Stobbe has never performed: Zoltán Kodály's Serenade for Two Violins and Viola. “I’ve wanted to play it for years,” says Stobbe. “I love this piece. Absolutely one of my favourite pieces in the world.”

Joining Stobbe are his Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Clearwater Quartet colleagues Gwen Hoebig (violin) and Dan Scholz (viola) to make a long overdue performance of the piece. As to why the work is so rarely performed, Stobbe notes the difficulty of the piece. 

“There’s several problems with the Kodály Serenade. One is that it’s really, really hard. It takes a lot of work to put it together,” explains Stobbe. “The other is what do you program it with?” 

The answer to that came by embracing the Hungarian folk flair. “Gwen and I talked about playing a sonata for two violins by Rósza,” says Stobbe. Perhaps best remembered for providing the musical backdrop to iconic Hollywood films such as Ben-Hur and El Cid, Rosza also composed plenty of concert works.

“Somebody who was influenced by Kodály and Bartók,” says Stobbe. “A kind of very folk-flavoured writer.” 

Rounding out the program is the Brahms Piano Quartet no. 1 in G Minor. “The connection is that the last movement is a Hungarian dance,” explains Stobbe. “It totally fits with the flavour.” 

In addition to cellist Yuri Hooker, another regular collaborator of Stobbe’s, there will be a new face joining the group. Paul Williamson, the lauded young pianist currently studying at the prestigious Colburn School in Los Angeles, performs with the ensemble.

Though not having performed together before as chamber music partners, Stobbe and Williamson have a long history. “Paul and I have known each other and known about each other for a long, long time,” Stobbe says. “Paul used to study with my aunt when he lived in the Fraser valley.” 

“I sent him an email and he was game,” says Stobbe. “I knew from the first rehearsal that this was going to be good.” 

“Karl Stobbe and Friends” streams online Wednesday, June 2 as part of the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival. Household tickets are just $20. 

Hear more about how Karl has reimagined his music-making through the pandemic, his long-standing involvement with the Agassiz Festival, and what it’s like to be making chamber music with friends again in the full interview below.