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The lifeblood of Utah Symphony players is orchestral music, in which each is a specialized cog in a musical machine run by the conductor. It's a demanding and fulfilling career, but many players also relish the challenge of performing chamber music, which requires a different skill set.
"I love playing in orchestras for sure," said Utah Symphony violinist David Langr, who will solo on the NOVA Chamber Music Series this week. "And I love it most when it feels like chamber music."
Chamber music's intimate musical conversations allow musicians to be heard as individuals, Langr said. Interpretive decisions are made among a small group of players through a give-and-take process.
"The best chamber musicians are the ones who can play convincingly in the way another player asks," Langr said. "Chamber music stretches you in that way more than any other kind of music."
It's a good fit for the affable Langr, whose personality combines a down-to-earth demeanor with passionate musicianship.
Langr will perform Brahms' Violin Sonata in D Minor with NOVA series president Jason Hardink at the piano on the first concert of NOVA's 2011-12 season Sunday, Oct. 23. The event kicks off a series of six concerts featuring Utah Symphony musicians and music faculty from Utah universities.
Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" and Franck's Piano Quintet round out the program, and Hardink said Langr's musical leadership in the first violin chair provides the linchpin for those pieces, too. That's especially important for the Wagner work, which blurs the line between orchestral and chamber music.
"I find these pieces to be completely collaborative," Langr said with fervor. "Everybody has their say."
The Franck piece is one Langr played years ago at a festival in New Hampshire and has longed to take up again. The thought of performing Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" in a chamber setting is also enticing. The setting of themes from the opera "Siegfried" is often heard in orchestra halls, but was first performed in the composer's home as a birthday present for his wife.
Langr grew up in Mount Kisco, N.Y., where he was introduced to string instruments through a strong school music program. He got serious about playing the violin in his sophomore year, dropping soccer and other activities. "It was what I wanted to do," he said.
Music brought opportunities, and eventually, love. He met his wife while playing chamber music at a Connecticut music festival. Kathy Langr, a fine violinist who substitutes regularly with the Utah Symphony, will play alongside her husband on the NOVA concert.
The couple reared their two daughters in Salt Lake City, where the family has lived since David Langr joined the orchestra in 2002. Maddie is in college now; Molly is a sophomore at West High School.
Winning a seat in the Utah Symphony was a dream achieved for Langr, who sought to play with a great orchestra near recreational opportunities. He loves skiing, hiking and camping, and is an amateur geologist and avid rockhound.
It's doubtful he's had time for those pursuits lately, as his solo moment on the concert is on the Brahms sonata, a piece he's always wanted to perform, but never has.
"I was delighted to be asked," Langr said. "This is a lot of playing, but I'm getting ready. Jason does a great job of making programs interesting and having them fit together well."
NOVA Chamber Music Series
P The season kickoff concert features music of the late 19th century: Franck's Piano Quintet, Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" and Brahms' D-Minor Violin Sonata, featuring violinist David Langr and pianist Jason Hardink.
When • Today, 3 p.m.
Where • Libby Gardner Hall, 1365 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $18; $15 for seniors, $5 for students, available at the door or by subscription.
Subscriptions • $82 for six concerts; $70 for seniors. Information at 801-463-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.