Canadian violinist Angéle Dubeau is going to great pains to ensure that nobody thinks she and La Pietá, her all-female concert ensemble, are in league with Satan. Such refutations are usually the purview of Norwegian metal bands, not Vivaldi-inspired talents, but it's an explanation she's nonetheless compelled to make.
"It's not an apology for the devil or anything like that," she says of the program the group is performing under the title of "Infernal Violins." "I like to do 'concept programs,' and this is one in which we playfully visit the repertoire of different composers and different styles that were all inspired by the same devilish theme."
Largely mirroring the content of their most recent CD -- also titled "Infernal Violins" -- the program features works like Tartini's "The Devil's Trill," "Mephisto Waltz" by Liszt and even a medley of "Paint It Black" and "Sympathy for the Devil." Yet, unlike many gimmicky, faux-classical attempts to recontextualize the music with a modern audience in mind, Dubeau's cred is unassailable.
Although La Pietá was formed in 1997, Dubeau has been a soloist for nearly 26 years, racking up performance awards and coveted concerts across the globe. But the life of a solo classical instrumentalist is, as Dubeau simply says, "lonely," and after years on the road with just her Stradivarius, she decided it was time for some company.
"The solitude was heavy to bear," she says, "and I wanted to play together and share energy onstage with other performers."
Inspired by Vivaldi's work as a violin master at a girls' orphanage (Ospedale della Pietá), Dubeau gathered an all-female group together to make a recording of Vivaldi's work. The group clicked and La Pietá was born. And though Vivaldi is an overarching influence on the group's work, Dubeau is quick to note that his works aren't part of "Infernal Violins." "I tried to link Vivaldi into the program," she says, "but he was a priest, so it was somewhat difficult to find the devil there."
Emphasizing "a lot of notes and fire," Dubeau and La Pietá have won over dozens of international audiences with their performances and, though they employ some rather nontraditional methods -- an actor who becomes the devil, linking the pieces as a silent narrator, for instance -- and emphasize that their work is very accessible, Dubeau's intense training serves the group well.
"Virtuosity is very important," she says.