Review by DC Metro Theater Arts: Source: dcmetrotheaterarts.com
‘The Art of the African-American Spiritual’ at National Chamber Ensemble by Jane Coyne
The National Chamber Ensemble presented The Art of the African-American Spritual at Artisphere on Saturday evening. It was a delightful concert with talent abounding, and the setting was most enjoyable.
The evening kicked off with a warm welcome from guest host Linda Jacobs Washington, who welcomed the audience and introduced the concert in a refreshingly personable manner.
The concert, which included traditional Negro Spirituals, also included a well programmed variety of genre inspired music by Antonin Dvořák, Camargo Guarnieri, and George Gershwin, and was performed by soprano Aundi Marie Moore, NCE artistic director and violinist Leonid (Leo) Sushansky, and pianist Carlos Rodriguez. Unfortunately, cellist Lukasz Syzmer, who was scheduled to appear, was indisposed and unable to perform.
Ms. Moore, an alumnus of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, opened the concert with a set of three Spirituals. With her commandingly big and beautiful voice spinning resonantly through the Spectrum Theatre, she clearly set the pace for a night of spectacular music. By the second number, Lord, how come we here, which started with Leo Sushansky beginning the piece from offstage, followed by Ms. Moore (who recently gave birth to her own first child) walking on stage singing of the haunting reality of slavery. “They sold my children away … I wish I was never born.”
Leo Sushansky performed two movements of Antonin Dvořák’s Sonatina for Violin and Piano in G Minor, Op. 100. Trained by his mother, a student and protégé of the legendary violinist David Oistrakh, as well as at Juilliard, Sushansky seemed to have a personal understanding of the links that join music and musicians. He did a wonderful job of explaining Dvořák’s ability to incorporate Spiritual and traditional Folk music into his music, and he performed the work with both technical ease and warm interpretation. He is a wonderful and most enjoyable musician.
Dansa Negra by Camargo Guarnieri
To the amusement of the audience, in introducing this piece, pianist Carlos Rodriguez shared that Guarnieri’s full name was actually Mozart Camargo Guarnieri. He also share that Guarnieri had a sound that many consider similar to some of Gershwin’s work, and proved to be very true. Rodriguez, who trained at Juilliard under the tutelage of Joseph Kalichstein, performed this work with brilliance, and was in great form throughout the entire evening.
The second half of the program began with George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess Suite, always an audience favorite. The trio was wonderful with this work, which gave all three musicians an opportunity to show both their individual strengths and chamber ensemble skills. The audience loved Leo Sushansky’s performance of “Bess, You Is My Woman,” and clearly enjoyed Aundi Moore’s rendition of “Summertime.” ”It Ain’t Necessarily So,” performed expertly by Rodriguez and Sushansky, ended the suite, which brought the house down in applause.