Return to Yesteryear’s Salons

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

February 15, 2000

By Daniel Webster

FOR THE INQUIRER

Seeking outlets for his interest in chamber music, new Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim played Sunday with the Concordia Chamber Players in New Hope’s high school in a program devoted to a Valentine’s Day theme.

The ensemble, formerly the New Hope Chamber Players, is guided by cellist Michelle Djokic, who designed Sunday’s program in the style of a 19th-century salon concert, mixing songs and chamber music. Kim, Djokic and pianist Gail Niwa, playing the Trio No. 1 in D minor by Anton Arensky, summed up a program of songs and a cantata by Handel that featured baritone Richard Lalli.

Lalli is an engaging singer whose clear diction and fine sense of intonation guaranteed strong communication between stage and audience. Although the Handel cantata Dalla Guerra Amorosa was the big piece, it was Lalli’s ability to shape each of his six songs about love into taut theatrical scenes that made the group engaging. He began with Mahler and ended with Cole Porter, finding in each some distinctive note, some twist of text to give his performance thrust.

In Rachmaninoff’s “In the Silent Night,” he matched vocal color and lyricism with the intense poetry. In Falla’s “Jota,” he found the color of Spanish romantic declamation.

The Arensky Trio gave the audience a rare insight into the complexity of performance. After the first movement’s close, Kim started the delicate, flicking line of the scherzo. His partners hadn’t started with him, and he stopped, hissing, “Are we all ready?”

They were, and the work continued with its seams as tight as they had been in the first movement. The piece is full of late romantic lyricism, and Kim played the broad lines with authority and eloquence. The opening melody showed him in command of a dark, inflected sound that set the mood solidly.

Niwa, who is sometimes Kim’s partner at the Kingston, R.I., Chamber Music Festival, proved a flexible player capable of strong leadership and careful ensemble. Djokic fit her playing deftly into the broad plan of the work.