Legendary Stradivarius to grace the stage with the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra

Stéphane Tétreault will perform on one of world's greatest cellos at February 2 concert at Showplace Performance Centre

Cellist Stéphane Tétreault has three times been ranked as one of CBC Radio's "30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30", in addition to countless awards and honours. He performs with the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra during the "Classical Roots" concert on February 2, 2019 at Showplace Performance Centre in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Luc Robitaille)
Cellist Stéphane Tétreault has three times been ranked as one of CBC Radio's "30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30", in addition to countless awards and honours. He performs with the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra during the "Classical Roots" concert on February 2, 2019 at Showplace Performance Centre in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Luc Robitaille)

On Saturday, February 2nd, the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra (PSO) will present “Classical Roots”, a concert at Showplace Performance Centre featuring celebrated Canadian cellist Stéphane Tétreault.

Composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky in January 1874 at the age of 33. Tchaikovsky began writing his Variations on a Rococo Theme two years later, in December 1876. Inspired by Mozart, the Variations were written for Tchaikovsky's colleague Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a German cellist, composer, and instructor. Fitzhagen, who gave the first performance of the music in 1877, reordered the music the following year and that version remains the standard.
Composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky in January 1874 at the age of 33. Tchaikovsky began writing his Variations on a Rococo Theme two years later, in December 1876. Inspired by Mozart, the Variations were written for Tchaikovsky’s colleague Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a German cellist, composer, and instructor. Fitzhagen, who gave the first performance of the music in 1877, reordered the music the following year and that version remains the standard.

Classical Roots will take the audience through Romantic and contemporary music that is strongly influenced by music of the past, with Stéphane Tétreault performing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. The concert will also feature Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. and Marjan Mozetich’s Steps to Ecstasy.

Stéphane Tétreault holds a Master’s Degree in Music Performance from the University of Montreal and was a student of the late cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky for more than 10 years.

Stéphane recently received the 2018 Maureen Forrester Next Generation Award in recognition of “his sensitivities with music, his enviable technique, and his considerable communication skills.” This is only the second time the medallion has been awarded. He was the first ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, and has played with the Philadelphia and London Philharmonic Orchestras.

“Stéphane Tétreault is one of the most exciting young soloists to emerge from Canada in recent years,” says PSO Music Director & Conductor, Michael Newnham. “Comments about Mr. Tétreault’s marriage of technique and passion have come our way. We are very fortunate to be able to present him with the PSO in February with one of the gems of the Romantic cello repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.”

Stéphane Tétreault plays the legendary 1707 "Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini" Stradivarius cello, on loan from Mrs Sophie Desmarais. It once belonged to Nicolò Paganini, and more recently to the great American cellist Bernard Greenhouse.  (Photo: Luc Robitaille)
Stéphane Tétreault plays the legendary 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius cello, on loan from Mrs Sophie Desmarais. It once belonged to Nicolò Paganini, and more recently to the great American cellist Bernard Greenhouse. (Photo: Luc Robitaille)

While regarded as the composer representing the apogee of the 19th century Romantic period (circa 1830 to 1900), Tchaikovsky possessed a deep affection for music of the 18th century Classical period (circa 1750 to 1830) — particularly that of Mozart and Haydn, the former of whom Tchaikovsky referred to as a “musical Christ.”

Uniquely, however, the theme in Variations on a Rococo Theme does not actually emulate the musical style of the Rococo period but is more a nostalgic declaration to it.

“When you hear the theme played, you get the impression,” says Stéphane. “A Rococo tapestry is extremely detailed, a Rococo carving is defined, and that is translated itself to music: phrases are shorter, they round up as a Rococo detail would.

“Thereafter, as the variations progress, we get more and more into what Tchaikovsky’s voice was (still with a classical influence): heart on sleeve, openly expressing emotion — extremely dramatic, touching, moving.”

Following a short orchestral introduction, a solo cello states the theme. Stéphane will be playing the 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini” Stradivarius cello, once owned by Nicolò Paganini and most recently by Bernard Greenhouse.

It was originally purchased and loaned to Stéphane by benefactor and patron of the arts Jacqueline Desmarais, who passed away March 2018 at the age of 89, and is now on generous loan by her daughter Mrs. Sophie Desmarais.

AUDIO: “Variations on a Rococo Theme – Variation III : Andante sostenuto” by Tchaikovsky performed by Stéphane Tétreault

Valued at $6 million, it is not the monetary value that makes this cello so important to Stéphane but, rather, its unique character and easy personality.

“It has its own soul,” he says. “At some point they develop that … it has been in the hands of many great cellists.”

He says he is “thankful” that it is not temperamental, but very understanding, as these instruments can be hard to get to answer or react to temperature or humidity. While he states that it is not a difficult cello to play, the key is to get its sound out as naturally as possible.

“Its open rich tone projects really well in a hall, so there is no need to force out the sound,” Stéphane says. “It sounds pretty, naturally.”

The Peterborough Symphony Orchestra performs "Classical Roots" with guest artist Stéphane Tétreault on cello on February 2, 2019 at Showplace Performance Centre in downtown Peterborough. (Poster: PSO)
The Peterborough Symphony Orchestra performs “Classical Roots” with guest artist Stéphane Tétreault on cello on February 2, 2019 at Showplace Performance Centre in downtown Peterborough. (Poster: PSO)

The performance of Tchaikovsky’s work will be complemented by Brahms’ invigorating Symphony No. 2, which Maestro Newnham describes as “one of the most serene and beautiful symphonies that I know.”

“This a brilliant pairing of two great Romantic works,” Stéphane adds. “Brahms’ work is a huge adventure, heartbreaking. They do work well together given that Tchaikovsky’s is a huge celebration at the end — a compare and contrast.”

Concert ticket holders are invited to attend “Meet the Maestro,” a popular behind-the-music pre-concert talk with Maestro Newnham at 6:40 p.m. in the Showplace theatre.

Concert tickets for Classical Roots are $20, $39 and $49 for adults, and $10 for students. Tickets are available at the Showplace box office (290 George St. N, Peterborough), by phone at 705-742-7469, or online at showplace.org.

This story has been written by Susan Oliver on behalf of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra.

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