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Thursday, November 8, 2007
A professional chamber music ensemble makes its debut this weekend, presenting classical music in a relaxed, informal manner that its members hope will appeal to both Gen-X listeners and traditionalists. Violinist Leonid Sushansky is artistic director of the National Chamber Ensemble, performing Saturday at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre in a program called "Groovin' to the Classics."
A former concertmaster of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Sushansky brings together musicians from his varied career as soloist, chamber player and guest musician with the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera. While a young student at the prestigious Juilliard School, Sushansky was coached by Isaac Stern. He his debut with the New York Philharmonic at 15, at Zubin Mehta's invitation, in the Young People's Concerts. After completing graduate studies at the University of Maryland, Sushansky went on to perform at the Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and on several European tours.
In a statement about his new role with the National Chamber Ensemble, Sushansky said, "The most important way of engaging the listener is to break the barrier between performer and audience and create an interactive, fun experience that is informative as well as entertaining." To that end, the ensemble's performances in the intimate, 387-seat venue will include the artists sharing stories about the music and offering their perspectives on the compositions.
The program will include Beethoven's "Serenade for Violin, Viola and Cello in D"; Weber's "Adagio and Rondo for Cello and Piano"; Schubert's "Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F"; Leclair's "Sonata in D for Violin and Piano"; and Mozart's "Piano Quartet in G Minor."
Joining Sushansky in the concert are some of the area's finest young talents. Born in Seoul, violinist Najin Kim began her studies at 4 and won her first major musical prize three years later. After studying at Julliard, she earned her master's degree at Yale and has made guest appearances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra. Her numerous achievements include winning the Young Chamber Musicians competition at the Lincoln Center and the first prize at the 2006 Mary Graham Lasley Scholarship Competition.
A former pupil of acclaimed pianist Leon Fleisher, Dionne Laufman is co-founder of the Washington Conservatory of Music. She has played as a repertory member of the Embassy Series, the Washington Music Ensemble and the Capitol Chamber Ensemble, and served as pianist and co-director of the Summer Serenades Chamber Music Festival at Strathmore Hall for three years. Laufman is a winner of New York's Concert Artists Guild International Competition and has recorded for Opus 1 Records.
Cellist Lukasz Szyrner was born in Poznan, Poland, and performed with that city's philharmonic orchestra when he was 10. Szyrner, who has performed throughout Europe and the United States, made his recording debut with Sweden's Chamber Sound label. He continues to play as a guest with many groups in the area while maintaining his position as principal cellist with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.
Uri Wassertzug (viola) is a founding member of the Sun Quartet, and has recorded with that outfit and with the Empyrean Ensemble, a new-music group. He performed with the Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra for nearly a decade and appears frequently as guest principal violist with the National Philharmonic.
In addition to this weekend's concert, the National Chamber Ensemble's debut season will include performances Jan. 12 ("Three Trios") and April 5 ("The Glorious String Quartet"). Discount season tickets are available.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
The Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre is at 1611 N. Kent St., Arlington. Tickets are $25 ($65 for the three-concert series)...For more information...visit www.nationalchamberensemble.org.