Alpine musical performance set with assist from performer with Grass Valley ties |

Alpine musical performance set with assist from performer with Grass Valley ties

Grass Valley violinist and concertmaster Richard Altenbach conducts a recording orchestra at 20th Century Fox in Hollywood, Calif. Altenbach assists and performs with the Auburn Symphony at 3 p.m. Sunday for the Mother’s Day Spectacular “At the Mondavi” in Davis. Bus transportation is available from Auburn.
Submitted photo |


WHAT: Masterworks IV: At the Mondavi; Mother’s Day Spectacular: “An Alpine Symphony”

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 14

WHERE: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616

TICKETS: $40 general, $20 student; 866-754-2787 or

TO GET THERE: Bus available from Auburn at 12:45 p.m.; see Auburn Symphony website

A Grass Valley violinist will help lead audiences on a lush, Alpine trek that will include dawn streaking across a valley, a roaring waterfall, a thundering storm, getting lost and a spectacular view from the summit.

Musically, of course.

Richard Altenbach is the concertmaster and first violinist for the Auburn Symphony. He will assist Conductor Peter Jaffe in this Sunday’s presentation of Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony” at the Mondavi Center in Davis.

“This is a very extroverted, huge sound,” Altenbach said of Strauss’ pinnacle work. “But it’s (depicting) a giant, Alpine mountain! The concept of scaling such a mountain is a herculean effort, and you hear that in the music.”

“Alpine Symphony” is Strauss’ final tone poem, completed in 1915. It is rarely performed because it requires such a large orchestra, Altenbach explained. Jaffe brings in “many more than 100 instruments,” including little-heard ones such as the heckelphone — a large, deep, bassoon-like instrument that Strauss himself suggested creating.

The Mother’s Day “At the Mondavi” spectacular opens with Giovanni Gabrieli’s “Canzon XVI a 12” – the “12” referring to the dozen brass making up the ensemble.

“This Renaissance maestro wrote for very early brass the way Vivaldi wrote for violins,” Altenbach said.

“Gabrieli created so many pieces that were written … for those parts — trumpets, trombone — when they were just coming into their modern form,” Altenbach said. “He also used the brass antiphonally — a sort of surround-sound effect, placing distinct brass choirs in the balcony and different parts of the church.”

“Canzon,” published in 1615, has a big, bold, complex sound that marks Gabrieli as one of the most important composers of his era.

The concert rounds out with Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto” of 1868. People instantly recognize the opening tympani roll and dramatic piano chords of the main theme. It’s “flashy, virituosic and very familiar,” Altenbach said. “The sounds and melodies come from a sound palette you might have if you had grown up in Scandinavia.”

Pianist Andrei Baumann performs.

InConcert Sierra fans will recognize Altenbach as the concertmaster for that Grass Valley-based organization. An A-List recording musician in Hollywood, Altenbach has performed for movies including “Finding Dory,” “Moana” and “Bridge of Spies,” plus recorded with singers including Barbra Streisand and Puff Daddy.

Altenbach also is an award-winning composer who writes for concert stage, video games and feature films. He most recently composed for “The Dark,” an Indie horror film, and for “Stealing Time,” a beautiful drama from South Africa. Learn more at

Grass Valley-based freelance writer Trina Kleist may be contacted at or (530) 575-6132.

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