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Combine some charming solo violin music and a popular local beer garden and what do you get? A Beer-thoven concert, of course!
In this instance, the music was provided by New Zealand-born violinist, Geneva Lewis, who has established a solid reputation from many fronts. Conductor Nic McGegan characterized her as "a name to watch." She is the recipient of a 2021 Avery Fisher Career Grant and Grand Prize winner of the 2020 Concert Artists Guild Competition. Lewis' performances in such places as Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw and other renowned halls have been highly acclaimed. Whether as soloist, recitalist, or chamber musician, her playing has been hailed as passionate, speaking from the heart to the heart.
Lewis' performance at Fullsteam Brewery is one of a series of Beerthoven concerts held by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle at breweries and music venues throughout the Triangle. This event is produced in partnership with Urban Ministries of Durham, whose goal is to end homelessness and fight poverty in Durham. Lewis is the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle's visiting soloist and will perform in the COT's concert at the Carolina Theater on Sunday.
The accompanist appearing with Lewis was Danielle DeSwert Hahn. A seasoned performer and arts professional, Hahn is currently the head of music programs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
The program opened with excerpts from Porgy and Bess as arranged by Jascha Heifetz. The very popular "Summertime" was intensely passionate and lively with moments of almost painful sweetness and longing. Lewis demonstrated a remarkable mastery of her instrument. Variations on the tune "It ain't necessarily so" were vigorously performed with awesome, biting attacks and special effects up and down the whole range of the violin bolstered by the outstanding piano accompaniment.
Other selections verified the numerous awards and prizes she has claimed. We should not be at all surprised to hear from her as live music returns to the recital rooms and concert halls. It was a fullblown pleasure to sit back in the casual setting of the brewery and sip a brew not tasted before while listening to music that soothes the soul and lightens the load of the day.
The program climaxed and closed with Maurice Ravel's daunting Violin Sonata No. 2, strongly influenced by the jazz style of W. C. Handy that was widely popular in Paris in the 1920s. With Hahn at the piano, Lewis performed the 2nd movement, marked Blues moderato, and the 3rd movement, marked Perpetuum mobile allegro. The tempo-interpretive texts serve as an effective description of the music. The second movement rolled slyly along with suggestive conversation between the violin and piano in subtle dance style. The 3rd movement embodied what someone at my table called lickety-split. The race to the end showed off remarkable technical skills from both musicians and ended with a thrilling cadence which brought forth generous applause from a grateful audience.
This concert was much more satisfying than one might expect of music in a brewery. All thanks to Lewis and Hahn, the COT, and the FullSteam Brewery. You will not want to miss Lewis' performance with the COT on Sunday.