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March 1, 2007

The ‘beautiful singing voice of the cello’ takes center stage

Julie Albers: Rising star Julie Albers will perform Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major with the Louisville Orchestra Friday nightOne standard of the cellist’s repertoire — sooner or later — is the Haydn cello concerto. Call this week “sooner” for 26-year-old cellist Julie Albers, who performs the Haydn Cello Concerto in D Major for the first time in her professional career when she appears with the Louisville Orchestra.The symphony also will present Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun’” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.” Giancarlo Guerrero is guest conductor.Albers’ first big-stage offering of the Haydn concerto may be more of a landmark for the audience than for the performer: A chance to catch a rising star early in her career.Albers notes that while she’s not played the piece on the professional stage, she has played the concerto many times. And the joy of Haydn, she says, is in, well, the joy of playing Haydn.“It’s one of the concertos that really shows off the beautiful singing voice of the cello,” she said. “The Haydn concerto has movements that are fun and sprightly.”Joseph Haydn spanned the musical epoch from the 1750 death of Bach to the arrival of Beethoven around 1800. In that half-century, Haydn virtually invented the symphony as a musical form. (He wrote 104 of them and got better at it as he went along.) The Austrian composer also is considered the “father” of string quartet music and instrumental concertos — all favorite formats of the great age of classical music. Haydn arrived in a world of baroque weavings and left in an era of grand expression. His cello concerto is a wonderful example of that change.Haydn pioneered an expansion of the orchestra, especially with woodwind voices, and that is how his cello concerto begins. The strings introduce a melody and are joined by flutes. Oboes and clarinets set off a second melody, with the solo cello entering to develop both melodies — then handing them back to the orchestra to complete the thought.The second movement highlights the “beautiful singing voice” of the cello that Albers described, with the soloist calling and the orchestra answering. In the rondo finale, soloist and symphony dance the night away.Albers began playing at age two, when her mother handed her a 1/32nd-sized violin, igniting an affinity for music. By age four, she had switched to a mini-sized cello.“Both my parents play, and my older sister was already playing, so it just seemed natural to me,” Albers said. “It didn’t occur to me until I was about seven or eight that everyone didn’t play an instrument.”A native of Longmont, Colo., Albers moved to Ohio at age 16 and studied in the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She has released one recording and has another due this fall with her playing partner, pianist Angela Jia Kim.The Louisville Orchestra has performed the Haydn Concerto twice previously: in the 1938-39 season with soloist William Doolittle, and in the 1984-85 season with James Kreger. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com