A Cello Takes on King Solomon

Eugene Symphony opening night features soloist Julie Albers

Julie Albers started playing cello when she was 4 because her mom didn’t want there to be any competition between her and her older sister. Well, that and the fact that she would interrupt her older sister’s violin practices.

Her mom started taking her to cello recitals and played recordings of cello performances. Albers grew into the switch, which she says was a natural fit. Of course, it helps that her parents were music teachers.

Thanks to maternal advice, Albers will channel King Solomon through the cello for Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, which will be performed at Eugene Symphony’s opening night on Sept. 27 along with Dmitri Shostokovich’s Symphony 5 in D Minor and Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town.

Bloch is probably Oregon’s most famous classical music composer. OK, well he’s actually from Switzerland, where he was known as a violin prodigy at the age of 6. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1916, landing in New York City. He would move to Lake Grove, Oregon, in 1939. But it was his overnight stay in a motel at Agate Beach that would inspire him to stay at the small coastal town until his death in 1959.

Schelomo was the final composition to Bloch’s Jewish cycle. He intended Schelomo to have the cello represent the voice of King Solomon and the orchestra be the world around him. So Albers has some big shoes to fill.

Finding out this sort of information is what gives Albers deeper insight into the composition.

“You get so much information knowing what was going on in the world and also in the composer’s individual life, which all leads to a deeper understanding of the piece,” she says.

Reading Bloch’s notes for Schelomo makes the piece come alive, especially since Bloch intended for the cello part to have a spoken feel to it, she adds.

Just like Bloch, Eugene Symphony’s music director and conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong is a recent Oregon transplant. But before Lecce-Chong moved to Eugene, Albers remembers him when he was studying violin with her mom in Colorado.

“I remember him being an incredibly sweet person who was quite intelligent and musical,” she says.

Hopefully she won’t distract him from conducting like she used to distract her older sister’s violin lessons.

Eugene Symphony’s Opening Night is 7:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 27, at Hult Center. Tickets range from $30.75 to $70.25.