Kennedy Center Chamber Players deftly mix standard repertoire with guitar-centric works

Margot Schulman/Handout - Kennedy Center Chamber Players.

The National Symphony Orchestra’s principal strings and keyboardist co-founded an ensemble a decade ago to showcase chamber music in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. On Sunday afternoon, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players proved their efforts are still bearing fruit with an intriguing program that paired standard repertoire with two guitar-centric works, one by Paganini, the other by a 20th-century American composer.

Violinist Marissa Regni and pianist Lambert Orkis dove into Edvard Grieg’s Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano in C Minor, Op. 45, with perfect synchrony and expression. Not a note was wasted, from the opening Allegro’s ethereal and shadowy melodies and the Allegretto’s childlike innocence to the Allegro Animato’s thrumming momentum.

(Courtesy of the Kennedy Center/Handout) - Ben Beirs.

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Joined by cellist David Hardy, Regni and Orkis launched into a joyful performance of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1. In their hands, the Adagio Cantabile turned out especially sweet, with Orkis anchoring the movement with his delicate confectioner’s touch. The strings reveled in the capricious Scherzo, and they capped it all off with a frolicking Finale.

Originally scored for guitar and flute, David Leisner’s “Dances in the Madhouse” is a four-movement work inspired by George Bellows’s eponymous 1917 lithograph. Featuring guest guitarist Benjamin Beirs and Regni on violin, the duo depicted a wistful “Tango Solitaire,” an endearing “Waltz for the Old Folks,” a discomforting “Ballad for the Lonely” and a rhythmic “Samba.”

With violist Daniel Foster, Hardy and Beirs gave Paganini’s Terzetto Concertante for Viola, Cello and Guitar in D Major, MS 114, a nuanced, if sometimes on-edge, performance.

Jean is a freelance writer.

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