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44th Season Highlights












Photo by Anne Peterson


Excerpted from a review by MD Ridge of WHRO 

Great Poles

Norfolk Chamber Consort
Monday, April 15th, 2011
Chandler Recital Hall
Norfolk, Virginia

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.

Reviews cont'd

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 Allegro Finale.

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 harmonics.

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!