September 26, 2013 - Russian Virtuosi, the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Washington, DC


'Musical Diplomacy, The Best Ambassador for Peace and Education'

“Musical Diplomacy, the best ambassador for peace and education”…… So stated Mrs. Vera Danchenko-Stern, the founder and artistic director of the Russian Chamber Art Society, on the occasion of a concert entitled “Russian Virtuosi” at the Embassy of the Russian Federation. The celebration of Russian music featured rarely heard Russian chamber vocal music and was received by an appreciative audience, which converged in the beautiful golden hall of the Russian Embassy.

Although the program was dedicated to treasures of vocal music, there was indeed a remarkable offering of rarely heard accordion works performed by Alexander Sevastian. The accordion virtuoso, recording artist and winner of many competitions, dazzled the audience with the “Don River Rhapsody” by Vyacheslav Semenov, a “Barcarolle” by Rachmaninov, a transcription of Mussorgsky's “Gnomes” and “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks,” as well as a rendition of Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” These pieces presented as concert works for the solo accordion were remarkable in their virtuosity and appeal to the audience.

Tenor Yuri Gordetski joined by the brilliant accompaniment of Vera Danchenko-Stern performed a series of songs by Tchaikovsky: Lensky’s aria “Kuda Kuda” from the opera Eugene Onegin; “I wish my Pain Would Flow Into a Single Word”; ‘In the Midst of the Ball” ; and “Whether Day Reigns.” Also an award winning artist, Yuri Gorodetski is a member of the Domingo-Cafritz young artist program in Washington DC. In this performance, he captured the poignant romantic nature of this era of Russian Art Songs.

Another remarkable performance was that of Genadi Zagor, a pianist of great achievement who has performed as soloist with the Moscow State Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic. He performed his own improvisation on themes of Igor Stravinsky and George Gershwin. Highly original and with great pianistic feats, he was laudably received by the audience.

To complete this memorable musical evening was coloratura soprano Katherine Keem performing works with Mme. Vera Danchenho-Stern by Rimsky-Korsakov, Vladimir Vlasov, and Alexander Alyabyev. Indeed her performance of the famous work the “Nightingale” by Alyabyev, displayed a lyricism and beauty of timbre which is rarely heard.

Mme. Danchenko’s artistry demonstrated the best example of skilled ensemble performance where both artists perform as one.

For the grand finale, the ensemble and audience joined together to sing “Kalinka,” by Ivan Larionav.

The Minister Counsellor, greeted the guests in the absence of Ambassador Sergey I.Kislyak (who was obliged to be present at the United Nations in New York). Welcoming remarks were also offered by John Hauge, Russian Chamber Art Society President, Ambassador John O’Keefe, Susan Carmel Lehrman, Philanthropist, and Vera Danchenko-Stern, Founder and Artistic Director of the Russian Chamber Art Society.

A wonderful buffet of Russian Cuisine as well as delightful desserts completed the memorable evening. The message of music diplomacy, as expressed by the Minister Counsellor, Ambassador O’Keefe and Mrs Danchenko-Stern serves as a bridge between our cultures, making us all citizens of the world with one common spirit. Particularly in these trying times of international conflict, music has shown to be a beacon of light that can overcome our differences.

FestivalDC.com, H and L Polgar