Music at St. Alban’s is an ongoing regional concert series presented from St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, about twenty miles north of Charlotte. This compact concert – 50 minutes from opening remarks to final bows – was performed virtually. It was the first of five to be held in the series this fall and winter. 

The performance was given by the viola-piano Duo Amabile, consisting of Matvey Lapin, viola, and Katya Lapin, piano. The Italian name of the duo means sweet, or the close English cognate amiable. And indeed, this was a concert of pleasing music making.

The first piece was the viola da gamba Sonata in G, BWV 1027 by J.S. Bach (given in the program as 1028). Matvey Lapin’s tone drawn from the viola was especially attractive, while Katya Lapin’s upper voiced piano could have been lighter, to better balance the viola and the active continuo bass. An excellent dramatic pause led to the quicker second movement. This was lively, but could also have benefitted from greater dynamic contrast to shape the whole. The third movement is very expressive, an example of Bach’s masterful melodic writing. One might have appreciated a more soulful character. The final movement, while it also might have been livelier, showed the most effective dialogue between the instruments, creating an energized character.

The following pair of pieces were by Robert Fuchs (1847-1927). This prolific Austrian composer was highly regarded in his lifetime, even as he is not often heard today. The Duo played Fuchs’ Fantasy Pieces Op. 117, Nos. 5 and 6. Both created an appealing performance. The first was lyrical, quintessentially high Romantic. This was captured in part by the piano, which, as a part written for that instrument, balanced successfully with the viola. Duo Amabile’s inward, expressive playing projected the piece well. The second piece emulated an innocent lyrical quality with an attractive, light dance character.

The concluding Schubert “Arpeggione” Sonata (literally written for the instrument of that name) was excellent. Here Duo Amabile seemed most in their element, capturing the expressive nature of the piece along with Schubert’s effervescent dance character. The transition to the first movement’s return was especially fine. The second movement embodied the Lied quality so often heard in Schubert, the composer of almost 600 songs. Here, as in other places, one wished for the viola to reach the very soft end of the dynamic spectrum, for special atmosphere and mystery. The transition to the third movement, an especially beautiful moment in Schubert, was also beautifully done. In the third movement, the last return was a tremendous standout, which had an attractive exuberance.

This performance and the series hosting it are examples of the extent to which our state is dotted with fine culture. This particular performance is available currently on Youtube. I hope that this series will continue to be heard virtually, even as live audiences are eventually able to return everywhere.