National Chamber Ensemble, the musical gem in residence at Artisphere’s Rosslyn Spectrum Threatre in Arlington, Virginia, showed its stuff on Friday night as it paid tribute to the 217th birthday of composer Franz Schubert with a Schubert and Champagne concert dedicated to his life, artistry, and amazing body of work. Hosted by internationally acclaimed author and award-winning broadcaster David Dubal, the Schubert and Champagne concert included delightful and inspired performances by NCE Artistic Director Leo Sushansky (violin), pianist Kathryn Brake, cellist Lukasz Szyrner, and pianist David Dubal.
To say that David Dubal (host of The Classical Network program Piano Matters, author of books including The Art of the Piano, Evenings with Horowitz, Reflections from the Keyboard, The Essential Canon of Classical Music, and Conversations with Yehudi Menuhin, writer and host of the critically acclaimed documentary The Golden Age of the Piano, and faculty member at both Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music) is a world renowned authority on all things piano would be an understatement. To have had the opportunity to listen to him discuss Schubert was a privilege. Anybody who reads can learn when Schubert lived and died, or in most cases, the year he composed any of his nearly 1000 songs, operas, sonatas, trios, quartets, symphonies, and masses. Dubal has an incredible mind and unending curiosity, as well as the ability to relate what he knows not only about music, musicians, andtheir relationships with one another, but also about the history, the art, the literature, the politics, the religions, and the family and human relationships that informed and influenced who these composers were as people and what they created as artists. What a way to learn about Schubert. What a way to learn about anything.
Through the generosity of PianoCraft and Udo Steingraeber, a gorgeous $230,000 Steingraeber E-272 grand piano was loaned to National Chamber Ensemble for this concert, and it was heard for the first time as David Dubal finished his remarks with a touching performance of Schubert’s Waltz in A-flat major, D. 978.
In Schubert’s beautiful three movement Sonata in A minor ‘Arpeggione’ for Cello and Piano, D. 821, cellist Lukasz Szyrner turned in a soulful performance, with emotion that was communicated through the sounds that came from his cello, but also in the tear filled expression of his face and eyes. This work was originally composed for the arpeggione, a period bowed string instrument that was a cross between a guitar and a cello, but it is now most frequently and famously performed on cello. Pianist Kathryn Brake provided supportive and thoughtful accompaniment in this cello focused performance, providing and in many ways adding to the sense of loneliness, despair, and questioning evoked by Szyrner.
The second half of the program featured the Piano Trio in E flat No.2 Op.100, an exciting four movement work completed by Schubert just months before his death, age 31, which occurred a few short months later. Performed by Leo Sushansky, Kathryn Brake, and Lucasz Szyrner, the trio, complete with beautiful repeating themes, dances, folk songs, and changing rhythms, provided ample opportunity for the talented Kathryn Brake to show off her artistry and talent and to showcase the Steingraeber piano, while never overpowering the strings. Leo Sushansky turned in a particularly fine performance, while demonstrating his ability to clearly communicate with both Brake and Szyrner.
It is always so much fun to be a part of the National Chamber Ensemble experience. Leo Sushansky programs very interesting concerts, representing many different styles of music, and he attracts highly gifted musicians and guest artists who choose to work and perform with him simply because of the joy involved for musicians and audiences alike. Every concert is affordable, and reduced priced tickets provide excellent opportunities for students to attend. All concerts include a complimentary post performance reception, where attendees enjoy meeting and greeting performing artists and each other.
The National Chamber Ensemble’s Schubert and Champagne concert was performed at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre at Artisphere, in Arlington, Virginia at 7:30 pm on February 8, 2014.
Next up at National Chamber Ensemble:
Happy Birthday Vivaldi: The Extraordinary Four Seasons
March 8, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Join NCE in celebrating the birthday of one of the most beloved composers of all time! Vivaldi’s greatest masterpiece, The Four Seasons, will be presented in concert with a giant screen above the ensemble. This family-friendly concert features The Extraordinary Four Seasons as never before, with fun demonstrations and a spectacular multimedia presentation telling the story of the Seasons.
NBC 4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer will be the guest host and will be reading Vivaldi’s Sonnets For The Four Seasons. Please join NCE for a uniquely-wonderful evening celebrating Vivaldi, co-presented with the Embassy of Italy! Artistic Director and acclaimed violinist Leo Sushansky performs the solo part of this brilliant, virtuoso work.
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 -1611 N. Kent Street, in Arlington, Virginia, or by calling (888) 841-2787.