Duetto Espressivo

      On April 18, 2004, I had the pleasure of attending a concert by Duetto Espressivo at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach. Formed in the summer of 2003, Duetto Espressivo is Natalia Kuznetsova, violin and Oksana Lutsyshyn, piano. Both performers have backgrounds with extensive musical training in Russia, and both now live in Tidewater. For details, visit their fine website at www.duetto-espressivo.org.

      The concert opened with the grand roar of the organ and the fiendishly difficult parts for violin of the Chaconne in G Minor attributed to Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745). A chaconne is similar to a passacaglia. Both were originally dances of three-in-a-measure rhythm with the music erected on a ground bass. In this performance Ms. Lutsyshyn provided the bass line on the organ. Ms. Kuznetsova played with fine technique, musicality and a sense of style. Ms. Lutsyshyn's organ sound was crisp and supportive.

      Ludwig von Beethoven's (1770-1827) Sonata No. 8 for Violin and Piano in G major, Op. 30 #3 brings the listener to the completely different world of thought and emotion. Dedicated to Russian Emperor Alexander I, this composition is distinctive for its short movements and happy mood. I invited Ms. Kuznetsova to furnish program notes that reflect her experience of playing these pieces. Her comments will be found throughout this review in quotes. "The first movement, Allegro Assai, is very laconic and original at the same time with a variety of short themes, which quickly replace each other." They played with a fine sense of ensemble and with elegant filigree.

      "The second movement, Tempo di Minuetto, ma molto moderato e grazioso, is the lyrical center of the Sonata. In this music, Beethoven fully transformed the ancient Minuet form into a wonderful lyrical piece, amazing in its flowing form and noble character. The finale of the Sonata, Allegro Vivace, is a lively Rondo with a perpetual dancing motion, intonation of Lydian mood on the background of a steady bass. Sudden modulations make this movement a brilliant pattern of Beethoven's colorful humor." The violin/piano dialogues were brilliant and the audience responded warmly.

      After intermission, Ms. Lutsyshyn played Canto Ostinato by contemporary composer Dr. Andrey Kasparov (b. 1966), professor of music at Old Dominion University. This virtuosic piece demands a ceaseless flow of brilliant keyboard work with its passages of dense textures of great intensity. Two passages call for the pianist to stand and dampen the strings with one hand while playing with the other.

      Brahms' Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. #108, provided the romantic finale for the concert . "The extreme delicacy with which Brahms illustrated all the moods and turnings of this piece went hand in hand with his extraordinarily fine craftsmanship and handling of musical structure . Even if you capture the basic moods of a Brahms piece, if you ignore or gloss over the subtler emotional points, you lose much of the emotional resonance that makes Brahms' music what it is. This sonata is a picture book of autumnal glories, as ever-changing as a beautiful sunset."

      The Adagio has a veiled melancholy with bittersweet joy flitting through the music. The last two movements, Un poco presto e con sentimento and Presto agitato continued the high level of musicianship of the first two movements." The playing was lovely with great warmth.

Bonnie Kim and Oksana Lutsyshyn
at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

      On Sunday, June 20, 2004, the clean, crisp sound of the flute and the rich, sedate piano tone were nicely blended in recital. The program opened with that Baroque gem, Sonata in F Major by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). It is lovely and familiar music and was over much too soon.

      The second piece from the Classical period was unusual in that Giovanni Paisiello (1741-1816) wrote the variations for flute while Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860) did the variations for piano in the piece Variations on 'Nel cor piru non sento'" from La Molinari. This lively dance tune with its many variations was most entertaining.

      In Frank Martin's (1890-1974) contemporary piece the performers had to tune together before playing Ballade for Flute & Piano. The piece has a quiet urgency in the piano and extreme high notes in the flute - in mood it is as if there is a cover over the sun. Exceptionally well played, this piece was very demanding on the listener. The voice in the piano sounds troubled much of the time and with the piercing cries from the flute, the piece left me feeling anxious. Then it calms briefly, only to be off and running once again.

      After intermission Dr. Andrey Kasparov introduced Luciano Berio's (1925-2003) Sequenza for Flute Solo written in 1958 in proportional notation, invented by Berio. The mood of the piece is playful, a sort of dance with stretched-out time, shifting rhythms and within the pauses of varying lengths, things happened within my mind. There were simultaneous high tones and a low growl sound, then percussive sounds with finger-tapping of the body of the flute.

      The program concluded with the perfect music for a summer afternoon, Francis Poulenc's Sonata for Flute and Piano, sunny Mediterranean music with sweeping flute lines and tinkling piano dances below. This is cheerful music as refreshing as a summer breeze. The encore was J.S. Bach's If Thou Art Near.

      Bonnie Kim was born in Korea and began piano study in Seoul at age six. At age fourteen, while living in Tokyo, she began her flute study, and continued her studies in Paris, finally taking a Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music. She has been both a successful performer and teacher, having taught at Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music and Oberlin Conservatory. Having taken time off to raise a family, she now is able to resume a career as a teacher and performer because her children are old enough to be in school. Ms. Kim currently teaches flute at the Academy of Music.

      Oksana Lutsyshyn is music director at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and is just back, looking tanned and lovely, from a concert tour with her husband Andrey Kasparov to Moscow, St. Petersburg, her home town of Lviv Ukraine and Belgrade, Serbia.

Still Alive
A Recital at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,
July 18, 2004

      We had as our personal guest our 82 year old friend Giovanna. It was her birthday and the lighter summer fare served up in this delightful program was just right.

      As Oksana Lutsyshyn played an elaborate piano arrangement of How Great Thou Art by local composer Michael Hassell, I had another one of my nostalgic moments with music. It was summer in the mid-1950s when the Billy Graham Crusade came to Beckley West Virginia and brought baritone soloist George Beverly Shay. I'd never heard anyone with such a beautiful, powerful and well-trained voice before. It was the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of the beautiful voice.

      After the bow by pianist and composer, Lisa Relaford Coston appeared and explained the title of the program: all of the music is by living composers and many of them are local. Lewis A. Songer from Tennessee State set The Diviner. The text reads "My rod is stout, water-divining, is a kind of listening with the fingers. I set the music free. I don't create the song." Ms. Coston followed with two songs that she first sang at a Norfolk Chamber Consort program (see AU Issue #23), Waitin' and Amor, written by William Bolcom. Waitin's gentle pathos and the over-the-the-top humor of Amor are always a pleasurable experience.

      "Air", Op.19 no.3 by Jeraldine Saunders Herbison, another of our fine local composers, was a happy series of a great many notes given a certain weight by the pianism of Ms. Lutsyshyn.

      A premier performance of Scylla's Love Poem, written by Katie Dixon and set by her father, John Dixon, closed the first half. In the Odyssey-inspired poem, Bacchus loved the nymph, provoking the jealousy of Circe who turned her into a six-headed monster that devours sailors. The music has a complex piano accompaniment and a sad ending as Scylla says "Don't look at me like that! I have undying love for you. I just can't help the fact that I'm So very... hungry... too..."

      John White came to a composers conference in Tidewater and brought his Suite for Harpsichord. Ms. Lutsyshyn took a fancy to this accessible music and arranged it for piano. The kinship of this music to Bach is evident in the "Chaconne" and "Invention" movements. The "Allemande" is a stately dance, and "Palindrome" is a fugue reading the same forwards and backwards. The last movement is a Toccata of dark intensity. It was performed with brio and clarity of line .

      Lisa Coston then returned to sing Once Upon a Universe, music by Jake Heggie (b.1961) on a very clever poem by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard from Of Gods and Cats. The song is all about when God was a little boy his mother admonishes him not to play with his creation, but boys will be boys and he creates temples and planets and then wipes them out with their own waste products (sound familiar?). Eventually he falls asleep "sucking his Divine Thumb (Alleluia)." Delivered with a great sense of timing, Ms. Coston's velvet mezzo-soprano tone left us with a satisfied chuckle.

      Local composer Adolphus Hailstork's setting of Emily Dickinson's poem If I Can Stop one Heart from Breaking followed. The program closed with the familiar words of All Through the Night, sung to a lovely new tune carefully crafted by John Dixon. Ms.Coston wrapped the magic of her voice around the song and somehow transformed it beyond our limited human parameters. We were given all three verses - a feast for ear and heart.

      The encore piece, Mothering God, You Gave me Birth, celebrates birth and life on Earth. The text is by Jean Janzen (b.1933) based on Julian of Norwich's writing (c. 1342-c.1413) with music by Carolyn Jennings (b.1936). The friendly, happy reception was a pleasant end for our friend's birthday celebration.

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