Harp Heaven at Dock Street and Prime Piccolo

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From music critic Lindsay Koob:

At last! After a sleepless weekend of dual-opening-night opera overload, series starters, and tight deadlines, I was finally able to catch my first Chamber concert Tuesday (program III), as well as my first Piccolo event, and both pleased mightily.

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Wadsworth was in especially funny form, and – glory be – star harpist Catrin Finch was on the Dock Street docket, joined by Tara Helen O’Connor and her fluent flute. Atop the menu was Entr’acte, a vital, Spanish-flavored piece by Jacques Ibert that sent ravishing flute melodies soaring over Finch’s spine-tingling bed of harp tapestries. Next came a pair of sultry and spirited pieces by Argentina’s most famous export, tango king Astor Piazzolla – drawn from his well-known Histoire du Tango. One of them was called “Bordel” – and you know Wadsworth milked that for maximum laughs. All three pieces were originally written for flute and guitar, but were heard here in Finch’s own arrangements for harp.

Then it was on to Mozart’s seldom-heard Sonata for Piano Four-Hands (in B-flat, K. 358). Wadsworth himself did the honors, along with partner Wendy Chen. This one could’ve gone better. There were a few notable finger-slips, and much of the delicate Mozartean grace I’d hoped for was missing. Still, not bad – and the crowd loved it. Mega-violinist Chee Yun then joined Chen for the final number: Gabriel Faure’s soulful and sizzling Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 13 – and they brought down the house with it. Wadsworth tends to save his meatiest stuff ‘til last.

Later that afternoon, I popped in at the well-filled First (Scots) Presbyterian Church to hear one of Piccolo’s extensive (17 events!) Early Music Series concerts. The attraction was the dynamic Russian cello virtuoso Natalia Khoma, who played the first three of J.S. Bach’s sublime cello suites: the absolute musical pinnacle for solo cello. Khoma is a recent arrival in Charleston – she was brought here to teach her instrument at the College of Charleston just a few months ago.

The grapevine’s been telling us she’s fabulous – but nothing could’ve prepared me for this. She attacked these pieces with a kind of virile vigor and punch that I’ve never heard in this music before. Brisk tempos, Big sound, strong nuances, deep and searching interpretations … this lady has it all. So many cellists treat this material with solemn, stilted reverence – as if it were a musical mausoleum. But Khoma reminded us that these suites are, first and foremost, dance music. And while shaking a leg is not recommended amid the pews of First Scots, she definitely had our souls dancing for a while there. Who says Piccolo gigs can’t compare qualitatively to the big-festival events?  -LK

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