Marc Destrubé with quartet La Modestine will be performing a baroque concert in Parksville on Feb. 1 ahead of the Pacific Baroque Festival in Victoria. — Jan Gates Photo

Musicians reach into ‘treasure box’ for Parksville baroque show

Performance at Knox Feb. 1 ahead of baroque festival in Victoria

A quartet of musicians is headed to Parksville with a selection of pieces from an extraordinary collection of baroque-era music.

With pieces retrieved from the Düben Collection (more than 2,000 manuscripts of baroque-period music from more than 300 European composers), violinist and Pacific Baroque Festival artistic director Marc Destrubé called the collection “a wonderful look into the past,” and “a kind of treasure box that we can now open and look into.”

He, as part of the quartet La Modestine, will be performing at Knox United Church (345 Pym St., Parksville) on Feb. 1.

The Duben Collection, donated to the Uppsala University Library in 1732, is special for having survived through both World Wars intact, said Destrubé.

However, containing so many works, a full catalogue of the collection was not published until 2006, according to Uppsala University’s Department of Musicology.

The collection represents a wonderful opportunity to explore the work of lesser-known composers who, though rarely performed now, were sometimes quite popular during their time, Destrubé said.

“When we think of music of that time, there are just a few names that stand out like Bach and Vivaldi or maybe Monteverdi… and then there are all these other composers who we don’t pay so much attention to because they are kind of living in the shadows of those big names,” he said.

“What I find interesting is that Bach and Vivaldi really only became well-known to concertgoers in the 20th century.”

“Some of the composers in this program, and the programs from the festival in Victoria, they were famous right through Europe and traveled extensively, and yet we’ve never heard their names, or hardly.”

Destrubé (on baroque violin) will be performing alongside Linda Melsted (baroque violin), Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba) and Michael Jarvis (harpsichord, organ).

Their program includes pieces by Rosenmüller, Rebel, Leclair, Schmelzer and others.

Destrubé described the upcoming concert as a “feast of contrasts,” with pieces ranging from French dance forms to less constrained Stylus Fantasticus pieces, slow movements, fast movements, virtuosic sections and more, many of which represent the “letting go of rules” for music that was typical of the time.

Personally, Destrubé said he’s interested in music by Rebel as it tends to be particularly “out there.”

Destrubé has described baroque music as the jazz of its time.

“Musicians at the time essentially only played music of their own time and place, and often they were the composers themselves,” he said.

Another facet of the baroque sound is, of course, the baroque instruments, which in general are less loud and warmer than their classical or more modern counterparts.

“It has a kind of transparency and speaking quality,” said Destrubé. “There’s a real sense of a conversational aspect to the music: that we’re sitting down and having a chat as musicians, and not just… playing music and pumping it out.”

“There’s a switch from kind of inviting the listener in, rather than throwing it out at them,” he said. The Feb. 1 performance takes place at Knox church with doors opening at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased at Mulberry Bush bookstores, by calling 250-386-5311, or by go to

For more info on the concert and the upcoming festival, go to

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