New Classical Tracks

Minnesota Orchestra violist Rebecca Albers enjoys being an inner voice

Rebecca Albers became principal viola in the Minnesota Orchestra in 2017.Minnesota Orchestra


New Classical Tracks (Extended) - Rebecca Albers

19:35


May 19, 2021
New Classical Tracks - Rebecca Albers

Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä —  Mahler 10 (Bis)

“I love being one of the inner voices,” violist Rebecca Albers says. “I love the interplay of the viola, and I love making my colleagues sound better by how I’m accompanying them.”

She has been part of the viola section of the Minnesota Orchestra for more than a decade. She and the other violas play a unique role on the new recording of Gustav Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, with Osmo Vänskä and rest of the Minnesota Orchestra.

“I joined the orchestra in 2010 as assistant principal and in 2017 I won the principal slot,” she says. “Taking an audition from inside the orchestra is not necessarily an easy position to be in because everybody knows your strengths and weaknesses. I was extremely fortunate that my colleagues were willing to give me a chance.”

What does the beginning, with an extended viola passage, mean in this symphony?

It's an extremely desolate, lonely and unsettling opening. You can feel the music reaching and searching as we climb up in the line, but it ultimately feels somewhat hopeless. When you're playing this opening as a violist and the rest of the orchestra comes in with that incredible F-sharp major chord, warmth and tenderness wash over you. It's an incredible relief.”

Why is the opening so unusual for a symphony?

It's really the instrumentation. He chose the viola section without any other accompanying voice. It would have been less striking if it were a solo wind or another string section playing it. The viola is in the middle of the orchestral range, and we're used to being accompaniment. We fill out the orchestration creating harmonic and rhythmic interest from within the texture. We're often not in the spotlight, and I think that in choosing the viola, Mahler was looking for a more plaintive and vulnerable voice.”

How is the discovery of Mahler learning his wife was having an affair represented in his Tenth Symphony?

You feel it throughout the piece, but specifically toward the end of the first movement. There is this massive, nasty, dissonant chord that is similar to a scream. It's just anguish and rage, and that could be depicting the moment that he learned of the affair.”

How is the flute solo in the final movement connected to the role that the violas play earlier in the symphony?

The flute solo is the antidote, and we've been on such a huge journey where the violas were searching and were hopeless, but this flute solo is more at peace. It's more accepting.”

Why do you think the symphony ends so serenely?

“Everybody goes through trials and difficulties in life, but we survive and I think there can be beauty in life and in death.

“Even though Mahler didn't get to finish the symphony, you hear him in the piece. I think getting to play it, record it and put it into the world is important.”

 To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Resources

Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vanska —  Mahler 10 (Minnesota Orchestra)

Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vanska —  Mahler 10 (Amazon)