44th Season Highlights
Photo by Anne Peterson
Excerpted from a review by MD Ridge of WHRO
Norfolk Chamber Consort
Monday, April 15th, 2011
Chandler Recital Hall
Norfolk Chamber Consort finished its season with a high-powered
look at three Polish composers: the early 19th-century master
Fryderyk Chopin and the early and later 20th-century composers
Karol Szymanowski and Witold Lutoslawski.
The first section was all Chopin, beginning with The Invencia
Piano Duo of Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn playing the
composer's Rondo for two pianos, Opus 73. It was happy
even when dramatic, with powerful bass, rippling arpeggios and
intense romantic melodies. One piano's declarative statement would
be answered with airy riffs by the other, and vice versa.
Six of Chopin's Polish Songs, Opus 74, were sung with a
rich mezzo quality by soprano Rachel Holland, of the Christopher
Newport University faculty. She negotiated treacherous consonant
clusters with vocal power and agility-romantic in one, dramatic in
another, and brilliant in all. Fortunately, the Polish texts and
English translations were in the program.
Kasparov teamed with intense young cellist Jacob Fowler for the
Chopin Sonata for cello and piano in G minor,
Opus 65. It's a challenging and unusual work whose first movement,
Allegro moderato, is as long as the other three movements together.
Throughout, one melody melted passionately into the next,
connected, but as different as one breath is from another.
The bright Scherzo was even more technically demanding, with the
cello's gorgeous low notes at the end. The Largo movement was slow,
sweet and pensive. Kasparov was particularly brilliant in the
Fowler, who grew up in Virginia Beach, studied at Eastman, then
Rice, and has played with the Virginia Symphony since 2010.Pianist
Anna Kijanowska stunned the audience with five of Karol
Szymanowski's (1882-1937)Twenty Mazurkas. (She has
recorded all twenty.) Playing from memory, the William and Mary
faculty member demonstrated assertive energy, dreamy reverie, and
vigorous command of the wildly varying tempos. These were not
simple folk dances, but fiery, mature compositions, beautifully
played, with power to spare.
Szymanowski's Nocturne and Tarantella (from
1915) featured Kijanowska and 18-year-old Virginia Beach violinist
Annika Jenkins, who studies at Juilliard. There was a nice tension
between piano and violin, beginning with odd, low sounds, then high
and sweet. Oddly Spanish rhythms had excellent phrasing and
dynamics, brilliance and intensity, and at one point the piano was
muttering ominously while the violin soared in weirdly wonderful
After the second intermission, with Kasparov at the piano,
Rachel Holland appeared again, singing Witold Lutoslawski's
(1913-1994) Five Songs For Female Voice and Piano,
from 1957, settings of texts by the Lithuanian-born poet Kazimiera
Illakówicz utilizing wonderful word-painting in
impressionistic pictures of "The Sea," gusty power in "The Wind"
(with a terrific piano outro), ethereal snowfall in "Winter," and
brave Knights going boldly into battle and
coming back wounded. The final song, "Church Bells," were not
tinkly little bells but, rather, mighty voices pealing strongly-and
in the piano, the peals got softer and softer, gradually dying
away. You could have heard a pin drop.
For any other group, this would have been enough material for
two concerts! Kasparov just doesn't do the easy, expected thing,
and he certainly seems able to tap some terrific musicians you
might not have heard of but really want to see again-it's all a
huge treat for the audience!