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45th Season Highlights

Photo by Anne Peterson


Excerpted from a review by MD Ridge of WHRO 

Let's Get in a Mood for Halloween
Norfolk Chamber Consort
Christ & St. Luke's, October 21, 2013
Review by M.D. Ridge

Christ and St. Luke's Gothic Revival architecture was a fitting setting for the Norfolk Chamber Consort's "Let's Get in a Mood for Halloween" concert October 21st.

The famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor set the tone for the evening. Organist Bradley Norris, wearing a sport coat and a grey "I'll be Bach!" T-shirt, began with his arms in the air, making claws of his hands, before settling into serious music-making on the church's magnificent Casavant organ. We're so used to hearing it done all blast and boom that Norris's more varied dynamics were a treat-though still loud enough to make my ears buzz!

In Shubert's dialogic Death and the Maiden, contralto Sondra Gelb made dramatic the nearly one-note response of the persona of Death. Her deep range extended easily into its startling low D, nearly an octave below middle C-not easy to do without growling, and there was none of that here. Der Totenkranz, by American composer Amy Beach on a text by Louis Zacharias, summoned images of a wreath of flowers called "children's thanks" laid gently and sadly on a beloved mother's grave. In both works, Oksana Lutsyshyn's elegant accompaniment was sensitively intent.

Lutsyshyn returned with Virginia Symphony violinist Pavel Ilyashov for an arrangement by Lutsyshyn of the famous Dance Macabre by Saint-Saëns. It began with handbells tolling like a knock at the door, followed by violin and organ trading off the melody- eerie sounds in the organ's upper range contrasted with the violin's scordatura tuning; staccato violin vied with fast organ legato, all with brilliance and fire, to a lightly surprising ending.

Reviews cont'd


Franz Liszt wrote a series of four Mephisto Waltzes based on the Faust legend. The first was played by pianist Andrey Kasparov, co-director of the Norfolk Chamber Consort. The frenzied gaiety and bruising dynamics of its village dance gave way to liquid notes splashing gently, returning to frenzy and a brilliant, abrupt ending. Kasparov came out for his bow wearing a frightful Halloween devil mask. (Afterward, someone said of his performance, "There should be a law against his playing so many notes in such a short time!").As satisfying as the first half was, the second half surpassed it. Contralto Kelly Montgomery, a member of the ODU voice faculty, was stunning in Modest Musorgsky's  Songs and Dances of Death, in which death is personified first, as compassionately singing a lullaby to a dying child; as an ardent suitor of a young girl; as a being who brings a snowy blanket to warm a drunken peasant with dreams of summer; and finally, as a field marshal commanding her troops of vanquished soldiers. Montgomery, who had not sung in Russian before, combined the clarity and bold consonants of superb diction with dramatic warmth. She soared effortlessly into high phrases, while Kasparov's piano danced around the voice. They were superb!

Last-but definitely not least- came the  Suite Gothique by the Alsatian/French composer Léon Boëllmann, played by organist Kevin Kwan. He brought out the work's contrasting colors and grand dynamics. The delicate, ballad-like melody of the quiet, thoughtful third movement,  "Prière à Notre Dame  (Prayer to Our Lady)" was utterly lovely, and the portentous final Toccata was impressive. Kwan's masterful performance made it perfectly clear why he's only the fifth organist and music director for Christ and St. Luke's in 124 years.

This review was originally broadcast on WHRO 90.3 FM's "From the other side of the Footlights."