National Chamber Ensemble: ‘Happy Birthday Vivaldi: The Extraordinary Four Seasons’

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National Chamber Ensemble put on a truly exceptional concert on Saturday when, along with the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute, they honored the genius and artistry of Antonio Vivaldi with a highly creative and crowd pleasing multi-media spectacular performance of Happy Birthday Vivaldi: The Extraordinary Four Seasons. The completely sold-out concert, which featured one of the most original and entertaining performances of the Four Seasons I have ever seen or heard, was presented at Arlington’s Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre on March 8, 2014.

Photo by Bob Jansen.

Photo by Bob Jansen.

The program began with a beautiful performance of a Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for String Quartet, an exquisite work that showcased both the individual and combined artistry of Najin Kim (violin), Jorge Orozco (violin), Jennifer Ries (viola), and Sean fine Neidlinger (cello).

NBC4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer served as guest host for the evening concert. Kammerer clearly enjoyed the relaxed and fun atmosphere of the evening. In addition to ably reading Vivaldi’s Sonnets for the Four Seasons upon which Vivaldi composed what would become one of the most famous works in the entire classical repertoire, the highly personable and popular host proved himself to be a talented master of adlib. After hearing a plug for NCE’s May 10 Mother’s Day concert, he took to the stage for his own plug, and announced that he could next be seen on Monday at 5pm, 6pm, and 11pm.

NCE Artistic Director Leo Sushansky was the soloist for the evening, and he was at his musically virtuosic and personal best serving as the soloist in this unique performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Sushansky is a Juilliard trained and highly accomplished violinist, one who is entirely at ease conversing with an audience. He also has an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that makes all of his concerts a very enjoyable experience for audiences. This concert provided an opportunity for him to show off all of his talents. For each of the four seasons represented in Vivaldi’s masterpiece, before Kammerer recited the corresponding sonnet, and before the musical performance of each of the seasons, Sushansky explained and, along with the NCE ensemble, demonstrated how the words of the sonnets were expressed in Vivaldi’s music, while sharing that Vivaldi actually provided explanations of each passage in the form of personally scribed descriptions that he placed directly into the musical score.

Sushansky’s demonstration was highly entertaining and very well received. When the music expressed drunken peasants falling asleep at parties or out in fields, Sushansky happily left his Baroque technique behind, and played as if he was, in fact, drunk. When the music expressed the sounds of an old man snoring in his sleep, Sushansky made his instrument snore. Likewise, when the music involved a person slipping on the cold winter ice, Sushansky demonstrated that he could slip with the best slippers while simultaneously playing a difficult and fast passage of correlating music. The audience was thrilled and in awe, and they reciprocated with spontaneous laughter and applause throughout the entire performance, one which inspired a standing ovation before its final notes sounded.

Photo by Bob Jansen.

Photo by Bob Jansen.

The talented ensemble musicians performing with Sushansky in the Four Seasons included Naijin Kim (violin), Jorge Orozco (violin), Jennifer Ries (viola), Sean Neidlinger (cello), Joshua Lebar (bass), and Natasha Dukan (harpsichord). While the musicianship of this ensemble was excellent, it was also a treat to see them having so much fun as they played. This concert was one of the most enjoyable concerts I have ever attended, and deserving of mention was the mutually appreciated and shared experience of the evening that involved Doug Kammerer, Leo Sushansky, the ensemble, and every member of the audience.

Adding to the enjoyment of this uniquely creative performance of the Four Seasons was a very well conceived visual presentation, created by Pamela Rinehart and Robert Jansen, that involved a concert length presentation of beautiful artwork accompanied with related verse from the sonnets, all of which was projected on a floor to ceiling height screen that formed a backdrop for the entire stage. This presentation was flawless and evoked emotion and appreciative response throughout the entire evening.

Next up for National Chamber Ensemble is MOTHERS DAY CONCERT: AMERICAN CLASSICS, a beautiful and entertaining concert including both classical and jazz music genres, one which will feature the highly talented pianist Burnett Thompson. The concert will take place on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 7:30pm at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre in Arlington. It’s an exciting time for National Chamber Ensemble. Make this concert a part of your Mother’s Day celebration. Don’t be disappointed. It is anticipated that this concert will sell out, so get your tickets online soon!

 Photo by Bob Jansen.

Photo by Bob Jansen.

For more information, please check the National Chamber Ensemble website. Tickets can be purchased online or in person at Artisphere’s Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre box office, located at 1611 N. Kent Street, in Arlington, Virginia or by calling 888.841.2787.

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National Chamber Ensemble Presents ‘Happy Birthday Vivaldi: The Extraordinary Four Seasons’ This Saturday, 3/8@7:30 pm by Jane Coyne.

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