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Symphony pairing a perfect marriage

Performance features couple on violin, vocals

Dawn and Mateusz Wolski bring a new meaning to the word “harmony.” She’s an internationally renowned soprano opera singer, he’s a Polish violinist who’s been the concertmaster of the Spokane Symphony since 2007, and they’ve been married for 10 years.

They both caught the musical bug at an early age.

When Mateusz Wolski was 7, he was tested at a local music school and was recommended for the violin, though he had a different instrument in mind.

“Initially I was devastated, because we had a piano at home, and I thought if I went to the music school, I’d play piano,” he said. “Thank God that didn’t happen.”

“I was certainly the only child I knew that had a hard and fast rule that there was no singing at the dinner table,” said Dawn Wolski, who grew up in Maryland. “I’m pretty sure I just never shut up. I was singing all the time.”

They both ended up studying at the Manhattan School of Music, and they first met when Dawn, who’s of Polish descent, approached Mateusz and asked for help with some traditional Polish songs she was working on.

This weekend, the couple will be part of the Spokane Symphony program “Angels Are Among Us,” which will combine the orchestra with the Spokane Symphony Chorale in an evocation of faith through music.

“It’s an exploration of the human relationship with God,” Mateusz Wolski said. “People come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, but if they believe there is something bigger than themselves, the music itself carries a message that you can perceive the way you want to hear it. It’s very abstract; it doesn’t define things as black and white.”

The Wolskis don’t get to perform together often – outside of J.S. Bach, they say composers rarely write pieces that accommodate both soprano and violin – so they’re most looking forward to John Tavener’s spare, haunting composition “Song of the Angel,” which isolates each of their instruments.

“It’s the smallest ensemble of the entire program – it’s myself, Mateusz as a soloist, and very minimal strings,” Dawn Wolski said. “It doesn’t have the chorus, it doesn’t have the full orchestra. It’s a four-page piece, and one whole page has one section of the strings playing a single note at pianissimo. It’s really bare. It’s almost an a cappella piece.”

“The magic happens in quiet places,” Mateusz Wolski said. “It’s the moment where the hair on the back of your neck stands up.”

Because “Song of the Angel” relies so heavily on the vocals and violin complementing each other, it’s forced the Wolskis to work closer together than ever before, which they say is both a blessing and a challenge.

“When you’re trying to create art, you can say to yourself, ‘This can be better,’ ” Mateusz Wolski said. “It’s another thing if someone else tells you, ‘This isn’t that good.’ And it’s a whole different story if that person is your spouse.”

“Our parts are not independent of each other, they’re not two separate lines,” Dawn Wolski said. “It’s basically one voice in harmony with itself. I don’t know what it would be like to sing with someone who isn’t my husband, but it certainly is easier. You’re more vulnerable that way, I think. You’re much more exposed to someone who’s also in tune with you on other levels. It helps to create more magic when it’s aligned.”