Concordia Concert Presents An Inside-Out Valentine

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Michelle Djokic, David Krakauer, Gail Niwa, Richard Lalli after the concert

The aura of Valentine’s Day still lingered Sunday afternoon as fans gathered at the Stephen Buck Theater for the Concordia Chamber Players’ second concert of the season welcomed on a bitterly cold day with hot coffee and valentine-decorated cakes.

Cellist, Michelle Djokic, artistic director of Concordia, noted that she had planned the program with Valentine’s Day in mind. She cautioned the audience, however, that the concert would portray not so much the romance of the day, but underlying emotion which she described as “a macabre undertone to a romantic theme”.

Djokic dove into Poulenc’s Sonata for Violoncello and Piano switching quickly from the light lyrical opening to a more restrained emotion then reverting to an almost depressing tone vividly portraying how light romance and deep emotion so often alternate in the experience of love. Pianist, Gail Niwa, opened the second movement with uncommon tenderness surrendering to the cello’s tranquil melody. Djokic’s intense presentation seemed to show the human spirit wandering through a world where love is all around but not within the heart. Following alternating moods the cello, as Djokic had promised earlier, sang to the audience with a protesting voice reminiscent of famed cabaret singer, Edith Piaf.

Baritone, Richard Lalli, had opened the program with songs by Gustav Mahler that set the tone for the afternoon. A young man leaves his love, going off to war to the beat of distant drums, never to return. Lalli’s remarkable versatility was evident as he quickly turned to a lighter theme in which his voice mimicked first a nightingale, then a donkey and finally, a cuckoo.

In the finale, Johannes Brahms’ Trio for Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano, Djokic and Niwa were joined by Clarinetist, David Krakauer. They immediately communicated restless energy that plunged to the depths of emotion before flying into space with an almost unrestrained release of joy. Then, Krakauer’s somber, penetrating melody exuded the pain of separation. But Djokic’s cello revived the spirit of hope and seemed to grab the listeners, pulling them forward to a feeling of hope, and finally the piano’s penetrating theme led the ensemble to a triumphant escape to fulfillment.

The Concordia Chamber Players will present its next concert on April 4, 2004, presenting works by Radzynski, Prokofiev and Beethoven at the Stephen Buck Theater. Tickets are $20 and can be purchase at the door or by calling 215-297-5972. Children accompanied by a paying adult are always admitted free to Concordia’s concerts.

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