July 7, 2010

RPO’s “Mozart and Marriage” Concert Features Musical Couple

RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and Principal Oboist Erik Behr — a husband and wife team — will be featured in next week’s Midsummer Classics concert at Hochstein. Christopher Seaman conducts music of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven on Wednesday, July 14 at 7:30 pm, his final summer performance as the RPO’s Music Director. (Click here for concert information).

We had a chance to talk with Juliana about the works they will be performing, and their summer activities.

Tell us a little about the pieces you’re performing for the “Mozart and Marriage” concert.

First off, the Bach double concerto for violin and oboe is obviously a favorite of ours. It’s a beautiful piece, especially the slow movement, and shows off both instruments' lyrical and technical abilities. The violin and oboe are wonderfully matched due to the similar ranges of the instruments as well as the voice-like qualities of each. We have performed this piece a number of times and discover something new in every performance.

I have fond memories of the Bach A minor violin concerto from my childhood as a Suzuki violin student. This piece is "in the books," as they say (referring to the set of 10 Suzuki books pertaining to the Dr. Suzuki method of violin playing), and I probably first played it when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old. I am most looking forward to hearing what Christopher's harpsichord playing along with the orchestra will bring to this work — I've only ever played it accompanied by the piano!

What have you been doing this summer to occupy yourselves while the RPO is on break?

We are lucky to be busy during the time off from the RPO. In June, we visited four different cities in as many weeks! The first week of June, Juliana performed as a guest concertmaster with the Kansas City Symphony with Michael Stern (son of late virtuoso violinist, Isaac Stern) conducting. The middle two weeks of June we both performed in San Diego as members of the Mainly Mozart Festival. The last week of June we flew to Maryland where Juliana is on the faculty of the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland. Finally, Juliana was flown to Aspen, Colorado, under the auspices of the Aspen Music Festival, to deliver the convocation speech to all 700 students and 75 faculty members. After the RPO finishes the summer season in July, we will be headed to Sun Valley, Idaho for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony during the month of August. And if that wasn't enough travel, in September we plan to visit Erik's family in Cape Town, South Africa!

When do you practice? Are you early risers or night owls? Do you practice together?

Whenever we need to! As an oboist, Erik has to make reeds — a daily endeavor which starts with bamboo cane, includes many different steps, and after a few hours, results in new oboe reeds — constantly and has a very nice "reed room" in which to do so. We are both more prone to nighttime practicing and thankfully, our neighbors like the sounds of our instruments! We are definitely night owls and often stay up past 1 am — something we try to avoid when we have 9:30 am RPO rehearsals the next morning. While we don't ever practice together, we try to practice at the same time — that way we can enjoy our free time together. Speaking of which, we're heading to the pool right now!

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