About 100 listeners were treated to a display of technical prowess and emotional sensitivity from a New York duo with San Antonio roots on Sunday at a special event sponsored by Musical Bridges Around the World at Gallery Nord in Castle Hills.
After a week of rehearsing together, cellist Christine Lamprea and pianist Daniel Anastasio presented an energizing performance that left their audience overwhelmed with their grace and abilities, and looking forward to experiencing what these two talented musicians may create in their future.
The two young musicians presented a riveting program of Janacek, Britten, and Brahms that engaged and delighted the crowd for the 90-minute concert. Both musicians infused the music with energy, verve and synergy between the two instruments. At an earlier rehearsal, interspersed with their playing, the two informally spoke about each piece, and at the performance provided program notes authored by Anastasio, providing insight and challenging the audience to take in as much of the experience as possible.
Leos Janacek’s (1854-1928) Pohadka, inspired by poet Vasily Zhukovsky’s epic poem “The Tale of Tsar Berendyey,” opened the program, portraying the melancholy longing of a fairy tale Tsar who longs to complete his family with a child, yet whose responsibilities ultimately take him away from home and out into his kingdom.
Benjamin Britten’s (1913-1976) Cello Sonata in C, op. 65, says Lamprea, suggests a conversation between a couple, with each movement representing different moods. Gesturing toward her musical partner, she notes playfully that the cello is actually the male voice while the piano is female. Composed in 1961, Britton’s only cello sonata atypically contains five movements which cover a wide range of feelings from pizzicato humor to cold despair to full-out exhilaration, which by the end had the audience on the edge of its seats ready to shower the players with applause.
Following a short intermission, the duo presented Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) Cello Sonata in F major, op. 99. This mature work was beautifully presented, showcasing the sophistication and power of both performers. Although they pointed out that Brahms tended to end his pieces in a meek rather than grand manner, Lamprea and Anastasio brought the audience to its feet, demonstrating both passion and expertise and revealing a beauty and sensitivity that clearly reflects their approach to the work.
Lamprea and Anastasio have known each other since they were adolescents. They grew up together in the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio from age 11 through their teenage years. Both artists graduated high school in 2007, and have great regard for their teachers, including locally, Anastasio’s piano teacher Rebecca Wilcox, and Lamprea’s cello teacher San Antonio Symphony first chair cellist Ken Freudigman.
Following her graduation from Texas Military Institute (TMI), Lamprea attended Juilliard and recently received her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston. In 2013 she received first prize from the Sphinx Soloist Competition program, which will now present her as a soloist with orchestras worldwide. 2013 was an exciting year for Lamprea as she also received awards from the National Foundation for Recognition in the Arts, the Young Texas Artists competition, and the Astral Artists National Auditions, as well as placing first in the Schadt National String Competition.
Lamprea is interested in teaching and performance in non-traditional venues, as well as exploring a wide variety of musical genres. She will be performing in 2014 with several symphonies on the East Coast and with the Costa Rican National Orchestra.
Anastasio, a graduate of St. Mary’s Hall, double majored in philosophy and music and received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and his master’s degree from Juilliard. Last year he was a finalist in Juilliard’s piano concerto competition, and he plans to pursue a doctorate in musical arts next year to further his interest in piano performance. He currently spends his time in New York on a number of endeavors, including studio recordings, recitals, and concerto performances.
San Antonio provides a welcome respite for these musicians, despite their busy schedules here. In addition to rehearsals, the two presented portions of their program at their alma maters, and performed at Haven for Hope.
“I spend my days in New York very focused on my practicing and the technical aspects of my work,” Anastasio said. “When I am home, I notice an opening, and it’s here that I’m really able to concentrate on the more creative aspects of my music. I very much appreciate that time here.”
Lamprea opened today’s program by expressing the duo’s appreciation in being able “to give back to the community in thanks for their support in our development.” But today, the pleasure was memorably ours.
Elise Urrutia is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in the arts. She has lived in New York and San Antonio, and is married to artist Mark Schlesinger.