For more than two decades, Gwen Hoebig and Karl Stobbe have worked side-by-side, sitting directly to the left of the conductor when the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra takes the stage.

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This article was published 9/3/2018 (1419 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For more than two decades, Gwen Hoebig and Karl Stobbe have worked side-by-side, sitting directly to the left of the conductor when the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra takes the stage.

While a musical partnership between the WSO’s concertmaster and associate concertmaster is a natural and desired result, carrying on a friendship away from the concert hall is something else entirely.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Violinists Karl Stobbe and Gwen Hoebig fiddle around for a photo, but in reality, the two are best friends, recording partners as well as seatmates with the WSO.</p>

SUPPLIED

Violinists Karl Stobbe and Gwen Hoebig fiddle around for a photo, but in reality, the two are best friends, recording partners as well as seatmates with the WSO.

"It’s highly unusual in our business," says Hoebig, who will team up with Stobbe, the WSO and maestro Alexander Mickelthwate Friday and Saturday for a performance of Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins at the Centennial Concert Hall.

Hoebig and Stobbe’s friendship has resisted the competitiveness of orchestral life and the way people compartmentalize their lives, keeping the hassles of work away from the refuge of home. Instead, they’ve welcomed their similar interests, and their families — who are also focused on classical music — have followed suit.

"We have kids who have grown up together, and that has certainly helped (our friendship)," Hoebig says. "Our daughters are best friends. Our sons are a little further apart in age, but our daughters’ (ages) are close and they’re very, very close. I think that’s definitely encouraged that close friendship."

That friendship offstage and their simpatico sound on it has led to a new album, Leclair: Six Sonatas for Two Violins, Op. 3, which was recorded last spring over three days and was released in February. In the recording, which marks their 20-plus years together with the WSO, either Hoebig or Stobbe carries the melody created by Jean-Marie Leclair, the 18th-century French composer, while the other provides supporting harmony. Seconds later, the roles switch seamlessly.

"We’ve played together a lot. We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to blend our sounds together and we don’t think about it a whole lot anymore," Stobbe says. "Lots of times, the two violins play in octaves, where intonations are really important to be very precise. Before we made the recording we just noticed we never really had to go over those things. We play really very in tune and we understood each other’s mannerisms for intonation and stylistic sounds."

The recording project is also the result of a series of fortunate coincidences, Stobbe says.

"We played them for 20 years, ever since I came here," Stobbe says of the Leclair sonatas. "The symphony has fundraisers and they hold events and sometimes they want a couple of musicians to come play. Gwen and I would often be called. So we learned to play these sets of duets.

"We’d looked at it a couple of years ago: ‘Gosh we’re coming up to 20 years sitting with each other and working together.’ "

When they looked online for more information about the Leclair sonatas, they found few recordings of them, which gave the two violinists the idea they could fill that gap with one of their own.

"We thought it was really great music and it hasn’t been recorded very much and it’s hard to find. We should put one out there," Stobbe says.

"I’m so thrilled with how it turned out," Hoebig adds.

Hoebig and Stobbe’s appearance as featured performers with the WSO comes at a particularly busy time in their schedules. Beyond rehearsing for the weekend’s concerts, which include a Sunday afternoon performance with the WSO in Brandon, Stobbe and Hoebig are also shepherding their teenage children to various parts of the city and preparing students for their performances at the 100th annual Winnipeg Music Festival.

"It’s a crazy time because our son has been doing his university and college auditions too, so he and David (Hoebig’s husband) were out of town," Hoebig says. "It’s just that everything has come together. It’s been really busy."

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca Twitter:@AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.