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Bow down – Winnipeg Free Press

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Gwen Hoebig doesn’t believe in looking back. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster keeps its eyes firmly fixed on the horizon as it marks its 35th anniversary this year in tandem with the WSO’s own Diamond Jubilee.

Remarkably, the Vancouver-born artist — appointed to her prestigious post in 1987 and considered one of Canada’s finest violinists — is only the fourth concertmaster in the 75-year-old orchestra’s history.

“It doesn’t feel like 35 at all, because there’s more to discover and there’s more to do. I’m having a lot of fun with it,” Hoebig said during an interview at the south Winnipeg home she shares with her husband, David Moroz, a pianist and professor at the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music. .

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Violinist Gwen Hoebig celebrates her 35th season as the WSO Concertmaster this year.

The couple’s two children, violist Alexander (Sasha) Moroz, 22, and cellist Juliana (Juli) Moroz, 20, are currently pursuing their own musical careers at the University of Ottawa, where Sasha is “in between degrees, and at the McDuffie Centre. for Strings in Macon, Georgia, respectively.

The solo violin, aka “first chair violin”, seated at the front of the stage near the conductor’s podium, serves mainly as a liaison between the musicians and the maestro, performs all the violin solos of the programmed repertoire, tunes the orchestra before each concert, advises on seasonal programming as needed, and notes detailed bowing instructions in the violin and viola section scores before rehearsals.

All draw inspiration from Hoebig, bowing in the exact same pattern to create a cohesive sound in the spirit of the composer’s intentions.

Hoebig is even more succinct: “I set the standard for the orchestra, she says. “My overriding goal as a concertmaster is to perform as well as possible to maintain the highest level of excellence. I’d rather lead by example than talk, because it’s ultimately about the music. But I’m also not afraid to speak when necessary.

PHIL HOSSACK / FREE PRESS KITS

Hoebig performs Gary Kulesha’s Violin Concerto to open the 2000 New Music Festival.

WSO music director Raiskin, a violist who is also principal guest conductor of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra and principal conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, sings Hoebig’s praises in a telephone interview from Bratislava, Slovakia.

“It’s an incredible gift to have a concertmaster I can communicate with and understand blindly, and openly discuss the many things we do,” the Russian-born maestro says of his simpatico relationship with Hoebig, forged in the rehearsal pressure cooker.

“Not only is she incredibly reliable and experienced, but she is also that kind of leader who communicates with her colleagues in such a way that it has earned her enormous respect. Gwen is a quiet force and it is a blessing for the orchestra to have her, and for so many years.

Hoebig describes her personal leadership style as “collaborative,” which serves her well whether she’s working with her colleagues and Raiskin, or teaching and mentoring the next generation of violinists through the U of M. or Mount Royal College Calgary in Calgary, where she is an extended faculty member.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“I set the standard,” Hoebig says of his role as concertmaster.

The soft-spoken artist began studying the violin in Vancouver at age five with his late father Helmut Hoebig, a professional violinist and pastry chef, before making his orchestral debut two years later with the Vancouver Youth. Orchestra. She also played chamber music with her equally accomplished cellist brother, Desmond Hoebig, while growing up in Vancouver, encouraged by their late mother, a well-known voice teacher, Patricia Hoebig.

Her blossoming talent soon led her to the Juilliard School in New York, where she met Winnipeg-born Moroz. She undertook a double major as a pianist/violinist, before devoting herself full-time to the latter instrument under the guidance of the famous pedagogue and violinist Sally Thomas, who also taught the virtuoso born in Brandon James Ehnes.

Prior to his arrival in Winnipeg, Hoebig — a highly respected chamber musician who performs regularly with the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society’s house band, the Clearwater Quartet — was concertmaster of the Orchester des jeunes du Québec de Montréal (1983-1985 ) and played for three seasons with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal (OSM). She was also concertmaster of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra between 1987 and 1990, a position now held by WSO associate concertmaster Karl Stobbe.

Seeking greater leadership responsibilities at the time, Hoebig applied to his first choice of available concertmaster positions, the WSO, as well as similar positions in Calgary and Quebec. She was finally given the green light after three grueling rounds in a blind audition, during which she performed behind a screen at Centennial Concert Hall.

DANIEL CRUMP / FREE PRESS KITS

Hoebig performs a Bach Violin Concerto on opening night in October 2020.

She admits it was a “big deal” to join what is still arguably still an old boys’ club as a rare female concertmaster in the late 1980s, a role that has thankfully become more mainstream.

Principal flautist Jan Kocman, who will celebrate his 50th anniversary with the WSO next season, remembers an upstart violinist in his twenties from Vancouver taking the reins as the ensemble’s new concertmaster.

“Being first violin is sometimes a very delicate and difficult position, as an interpreter or vector of the musical director’s vision, as well as for the guest conductors”, explains the wind player on the phone.

“Gwen has been exceptionally successful in finding that balance and growing in this role while navigating through all these years with many different musical directors and guest conductors, and in the most positive way,” he says.

COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN FILE

Hoebig performed with the WSO at Centennial Auditorium in Brandon in March 2011.

Stobbe, who first joined the WSO in 1996 and is seated directly to the left of Hoebig on stage as “pit mate”, is uniquely placed, literally, to talk about her contributions to the orchestra, which is often described as a family. As Associate Concertmaster, Stobbe must also be prepared to replace Hoebig at extremely short notice in the event of illness – a sobering reality in the age of COVID-19.

“Gwen is such a great violinist, which is obviously very important, with a smooth, clean sound and can really connect with listeners and express herself,” says Stobbe, who has recorded an album of violin works by Jean -Marie Leclair with Hoebig in 2018. .

“She has also presented an impressive number of Canadian world premieres and worked directly with composers to introduce new music to audiences at the Winnipeg New Music Festival. I don’t know how many other violinists would have those kinds of numbers behind them, with a versatility and consistency that’s still there,” he says.

Hoebig has played on her prized and “faithful” Italian-made Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi (1770-1775) since 1997 – she keeps a handcrafted replica by Winnipeg luthier Garth Lee – and quotes Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major as one of his favorite pieces on the “deserted island” for its “purity”, in addition to all the romantic and lush works of Brahms. She treated listeners to one of her signature pieces, Vaughan Williams’ The rising lark, during the WSO’s Manitoba Remembers: A COVID Elegy program last April, with her jaw-dropping performance hailed by Raiskin as “spellbinding.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

When Gwen Hoebig joined the WSO 35 years ago, female concertmasters were rare.

She is currently preparing to be presented alongside her colleague Sonia Lazar on December 3. Violins of Hope, curated by third-generation Israeli violin maker Avshalom (Avshi) Weinstein and conducted by Raiskin, will see the two perform on violins that were once owned by Jews. musicians who perished in the Holocaust, promising a deeply moving night that will take listeners from the darkness of despair into the light of eternal hope.

Hoebig is the first to admit she’s ‘up there’ in an elite club of Canada’s longest-serving solo violins, with her eldest, MSO’s Richard Roberts, announcing his retirement after 40 last month . The inevitable question arises as to his eventual retirement from the scene.

“I’m not there yet and I’m going to take each year as it comes,” replies the violinist without hesitation. “I hope, however, that when the time comes, I will make the decision before someone else does it for me.

“I feel so lucky and amazed to have been able to do all the things I’ve done for 35 years, including giving back to the community as a whole, but I’m still very forward looking and loving what I do. I do .”

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