This September we travel to Perth to present two exhilarating concerts at Government House as part of AYO Chamber Players. Here Music Director Dale Barltop chats with Genevieve Lang regarding the program.

Music Director Dale Barltop

As the name suggests, the AYO Chamber Players program has an intensive focus on chamber music. How important is/was chamber music in your own development as a performer?

DB – Chamber music has always played a huge role in my musical development and still continues to! I consider it a vital part of my life as a musician as it embodies the very essence of making music at its most fundamental level – the expression, communication and interaction between two or more performers and their audience. I’ve been very fortunate to play chamber music with many wonderful musicians over the years, and with each and every experience, I learn something new about music and myself.

What skills are you able to transfer from playing chamber music to your work in leading the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra?

DB – Orchestral playing is really not all that different from playing in a string quartet. Yes, there may be 100 people on stage as opposed to 4, but the principles are really the same…. our senses need to be so finely tuned that we can adjust and respond in any given moment according to what we hear or see around us. While the conductor may provide the musical leadership, there are as many different ways to interpret a conductor’s beat as there are people in an orchestra! So by developing ways to interact and synchronize with our fellow orchestral musicians, from the use of eye contact, physical gestures, listening, anticipating (and sometimes sheer mental telepathy!) we can learn to communicate with each other across the orchestra.

You’re bringing a couple of colleagues with you – Joshua Roman and Victor Asuncion – How would you describe the dynamic between you, and what prompted you to form a piano trio together?

DB – To be honest, this AYO Chamber Players program is the very catalyst for bringing these guys together to form a trio! When I was approached by AYO to direct this program and given the luxury of bringing to Australia some colleagues of my choice, I knew immediately who I would ask! Victor and Joshua are two of my all-time favourite musicians and I’m thrilled that some of Australia’s most talented young players are going to get to work with them. Victor and I met as students at the University of Maryland and similarly, Joshua and I met as students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Playing with each of them respectively is an exhilarating experience and I find myself never wanting it to end! Our musical paths have since taken us in very different directions (Victor and I have collaborated as a duo numerous times since then), but as you can imagine, this September will be a long-awaited reunion for the three of us. So thank you AYO!

What will be the focus of the AYO Chamber Players program?

DB – This year, we will be delving into the early string quartets and piano trios of Beethoven. As we have six string quartets and three piano trios attending, the six Op. 18 quartets and the three Op.1 piano trios will be the perfect opportunity to delve into a thorough survey of Beethoven’s formative chamber music output. Building on the rich tradition laid down by Haydn and Mozart, these masterpieces collectively represent a distinct turning point in the development of chamber music at the turn of the 19th century.

What should the participants be doing in preparation for AYO Chamber Players?

DB – Have chamber music reading parties! I’m serious. It’s harder to find time when you fully enter the professional world, but some of the most valuable chamber music experiences I had as a student were informal get-togethers with my friends over a few glasses of wine and reading through the repertoire! I can’t tell you how many pieces I was introduced to this way. Not only does it greatly improve your sight-reading ability, it encourages music-making of the most spontaneous variety in a relaxed, joyous environment. What better way to hone your chamber music skills!