The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo is comprised of pianists Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro.

The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo is comprised of pianists Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro.

by Michael Caruso

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, hosted the third in its series of “Five Friday Concerts for Community” on Friday, Feb. 21. In collaboration with Astral Artists, the local parish presented flutist Juliette Curenton and guitarist Jordan Dodson in a program that spanned more than two centuries of repertoire.

Franz Schubert composed his “Sonata, D. 821,” for piano and “arpeggione,” a hybrid instrument that blended the guitar and the cello in such a way that within a few years none were being constructed, and within a few decades all specimens had disappeared.

In Friday evening’s incarnation, the “arpeggione” part was played by Curenton on a flute, and the piano part was taken up by Dodson on the guitar. The music made a seamless transition to its new interpreters on the basis of their extraordinary musicianship and technical prowess.

Curenton produced a velvety tone and exquisite phrasing, projecting Schubert’s lyrical melodies with exemplary breath-control, a broad dynamic range and a natural sense of when to speed up and when to slow down the tempo. Dodson managed Schubert’s intricate writing for the piano as though it had been composed by a master guitarist rather than by a transcriber.

Dodson was heard solo in two movements from Elliot Cole’s “Bloom” Suite. From deep within a flurry of notes in the first movement he drew out a melody with a seamless legato and a kaleidoscope of colors. Curenton returned to join Dodson in Toru Takemitsu’s “Toward the Sea,” a three-movement suite for alto flute & guitar that encapsulates the Japanese composer’s gift for combining the traditions of his own native land’s music, French Impressionism and modern styles.

It was Curenton’s turn to solo in Ernst von Dohnanyi’s “Passacaglia,” composed in 1959 and pairing the baroque variation form of the title with 12-tone serialism in a potent mix replete with full-fledged references to traditional tonality. It’s a stunning piece of music, and Curenton played it with flair.

The next recital in the series, scheduled for Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m., will feature the Varshavavski-Shapiro Piano Duo. More information at


Yannick Nezet-Seguin returned to the podium of the Philadelphia Orchestra this past weekend and conducted the ensemble in a program of music composed by Richard Strauss, Dmitri Shostakovich & Ludwig van Beethoven. The Philadelphians’ young music director may not be able to construct a program that fits within the usual two-hour limit (this one ran 20 minutes long), but he certainly knows how to hold his audience’s attention to the very last note, as he did Saturday, Feb. 22, in a packed Verizon Hall.

Strauss, who was born in 1864 and died in 1949, lived through several transformations of his native Germany. In the final two years of World War II, Strauss composed his “Matamorphosen” for 23 solo strings. In many ways it’s a compendium of all the stylistic characteristics of his career and the times in which he lived. It harkens back to the Wagnerian romanticism of his tone poems, the exotic expressionism of his early operas “Salome” and “Elektra,” the neo-classicism of “Der Rosenkavalier” and the later operas, and the post-romanticism of his final years. It’s nostalgic and heartfelt. If Nezet-Seguin didn’t quite capture those aspects of the score, he did elicit fine playing from 23 members of the Orchestra’s string section. What was missing was that unique glistening luster bequeathed by Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy that set the Philadelphians’ string apart from those of every other orchestra in the world except for the Vienna Philharmonic.

Shostakovich composed his “Cello Concerto No. 1” in 1959, six years after the death of Josef Stalin, the psychopathic butcher who ruled the Soviet Union for more than three decades and who murdered countless millions of his own countrymen. Shostakovich’s reaction to the political scene, which he had somehow managed to survive, was not so tinged with hope as Strauss’ had been. In his music, he captured the brutality of life through jagged rhythms, angular melodies, shrieking dissonances and edgy orchestration. Nezet-Seguin and his soloist, the casually attired Johannes Moser, delineated the dark mood of the music with passion.