Six soloists create dynamic combo

October 12, 2007|By Sarah Hoover | Sarah Hoover,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The fall lineup for Columbia's Candlelight Concerts leads off tomorrow with Concertante, a chamber ensemble of six virtuoso string players, joined by pianist Adam Neiman. The 7:30 p.m. concert in the Smith Theatre at Howard Community College includes works by Dvorak, Shostakovich and Lowell Liebermann.

It is rare to find a true ensemble comprising six dynamic, well-matched soloists. The individual members of Concertante (violinists Xiao-Dong Wang and Ittai Shapira, violists Ara Gregorian and Rachel Shapiro, and cellists Alexis Pia Gerlach and Sarah Carter) are each acclaimed soloists and international competition winners.

Together as Concertante, however, these players have won the praise of critics throughout the country. They have also established a series, One Plus Five, with the mission of fostering the composition and performance of new works.

Tomorrow's concert features one of the fruits of their endeavors: Liebermann's Chamber Concerto No. 2, Op. 98 was commissioned by Concertante's violinist Wang for the ensemble.

Also performing on the program is guest pianist Neiman, who has astounded critics with the maturity and sensitivity of his playing ever since his professional debut at age 11. These should be auspicious forces for Shostakovich's subtle and emotionally layered Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 57. In 1937, the Russian composer returned to grace with the Stalinist party after his well-received Fifth Symphony. The Piano Quintet a smaller-scale chamber work comprising five movements, was written shortly thereafter in 1940.

This is wary music -- beautifully, if carefully, wrought -- written by a composer who was altogether cognizant of the potential danger another musical misstep could cost him. Instead of persecution, the Quintet garnered the 1941 Stalin Prize for the composer.

Also on the program is Antonin Dvorak's String Sextet in A Major, Op. 48, written in 1878. Dvorak, who could "pull melodies out of his sleeve," according to his publisher Fritz Simrock, was at this time experimenting with a new nationalist style of composition; the four movements of the Sextet make liberal use of Czech folk melodies and dance rhythms, most notably the melancholic Dumka and energetic Furiant.

Alongside Liebermann's somber one-movement Chamber Concerto No. 2, Op. 98, these two works will give the members of Concertante and guest Neiman plenty of opportunity to display their acclaimed artistry and energy.

Tickets for Saturday's concert are $29, $26 for seniors age 60 and older, and $12 for full-time students up to age 24. For further information, call 443-367-3123 or visit

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