Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 10, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Jacqueline Choi"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT 
April 2, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

South Korean-born cellist Jacqueline Choi introduced her “very Romantic program,” with Chinese-born pianist Zhenni Li-Cohen, as highlighting the intimate connection between “cello and song,” the instrument’s sonic range closely reflecting that of the human voice. 

Accordingly, their program began with Beethoven’s 1801 set of 7 Variations on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen” (“Men Who Feel the Call of Love”),” a duet praising love sung by Princess Pamina and the birdcatcher Papageno in Mozart’s 1791 opera “The Magic Flute.” Choi and Li-Cohen proved equal partners in conveying every mood, from playful to melancholy to exhilarated, in Beethoven’s virtuosic score. 

Next came Choi’s gorgeous arrangements for cello and piano of three songs written for voice and piano by Liszt in the 1840’s: “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst” (“Love As Long As You Can”); “Enfant, si j’etais roi” (“Child, If I Were King”); and “Oh! Quand je dors” (“Oh! When I Sleep”). Before rendering each selection with exquisite sensitivity, Choi or Li-Cohen read its English text, heightening listeners’ appreciation of their lyrical interpretations. 
A stunning account of Debussy’s technically demanding 1915 sonata for cello and piano featured a taut opening “Prologue,” a capricious “Serenade,” and a whirlwind “Finale.” Choi even plucked her cello alternately like a guitar and an upright bass in the jazzy “Serenade.” 

Reminding her audience in his 150th birthday anniversary weekend that Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote all his music “from the heart,” Choi thanked Li-Cohen for her mastery of the “monstrous” piano part in his 1901 sonata for cello and piano, with which they ended the concert in an epic performance. From a lush opening “Lento-Allegro moderato,” an animated “Allegro scherzando,” and a ravishing “Andante” to a joyous closing “Allegro mosso,” Choi’s deep, rich tone was at its most expressive, and Li-Cohen’s pianism, intensely full-bodied.   

The flattering acoustic of the theatre in this northern Connecticut venue enhanced the kinetically engaging stage presence of both women. SWCA, a volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for over 40 years. 

All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm. The season ends with the Lysander Piano Trio on April 30.