The Historic Hope-Valley based St. Stephen's Episcopal Church has a long history of promoting music on its Concert Series. This recital brought together for the first time two local boys who have done "good" on the professional level. Violinist Nicolas Kitchen, son of musicians and parishioners Dorothy and Joseph Kitchen, is well established as both an international soloist and as the founder/leader of the distinguished Borromeo String Quartet. Impressive pianist Andrew Tyson, also a son of the parish, is at an earlier stage of his career having already given concerts internationally and having just returned from the 2010 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw where he was a semifinalist.
Kitchen has always excelled in the presentation of key musical points to the lay public through apt descriptions, humor, and playing excerpts. He and Tyson explored the program of Beethoven, Chausson, Chopin, and Frank through excerpts an hour before the concert. Kitchen drew attention to the influence of J.S. Bach and his Well-Tempered Klavier in both the Beethoven and Frank. Tyson said Chopin's Barcarolle was far removed from its original models, supposed Venetian gondoliers' boat songs, except for the extended sections of a repeated bass rhythm by the left hand.
The Sonata No. 3 in E-flat for Violin and Piano, Op. 12, No. 3 by Ludwig von Beethoven is the last of his three early works still within the technical abilities of most serious amateurs. According to Melvin Berger in Guide to Sonatas, "the most serious and original music is in the first movement, the slow movement is deeply emotional and expressive," and the finale is sparkling. Kitchen and Tyson were clearly compatible partners who encouraged a lively and equal give-and-take. Instrumental balances were superbly judged with well-chosen tempos and effective phrasing.
The Poème, Op. 25 by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899 is highly chromatic with complex harmonies. Chausson composed the work for Eugene Ysaÿe whose style was incorporated. The composer was supposedly inspired by the short story "Song of Love Triumphant" by Ivan Turgenev. Kitchen's playing was thrilling as he played crystalline pp high notes with superb control of the different vibratos and beautifully executed double stops. Tyson's piano provided a delicate bass "net" for the "high wire" ballet by the violin.
Kitchen and Tyson turned in a passionate, searing performance of the Sonata in A for Violin and Piano (1886) by César Frank (1822-90). The dynamic range and the tonal palette were extraordinary. The reciprocity between players, as musical elements passed from one instrument was breathtaking. The prolonged spontaneous standing ovation was rewarded with a repeat of the ebullient finale of Beethoven's Third Violin Sonata.