BAROQUE MASTERPIECES:  The National Chamber Ensemble opened its 12th season with music of the Baroque Period with instrumental works by Albinoni and Vivaldi, concluding with the sacred gem “Stabat Mater” by Giovanni Pergolesi.

by Patrick D. McCoy 

When it was announced that violinist artistic director Leonid Sushanksy had an awful accident, breaking his hand in a fall, all sorts of panic ensued.  Many ticket holders were wondering if the show would go on.  Sushansky could have easily bowed out and cancel the concert, but the show indeed went on.  Coincidentally,acclaimed violinist and conductor Dietrich Parades happened to be in town and he graciously agreed to step in as first violinist for the Albinoni, Vivaldi and Pergolesi works slated for the program that was performed last month as the National Chamber Ensemble’s season Opener.

Glorious instrumental music from the Baroque opened the program.  Two concerti by Albinoni and Vivaldi were both festive in nature and featured the talents of members of the National Chamber Ensemble; Natasha Dukan harpsichord, Dietrich Parades violin, Jorge Orozco violin, Chris Shieh viola, Susanna Mendlow cello, Chris Chlumsky double bass.  Playing harmoniously together, there was a true sense of ensemble that brought a spirit of musical uniformity to the evening.

After the intermission, soprano Sharon Christman and mezzo-soprano Anamer Castrello joined the members of the National Chamber Ensemble in Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” with Leo Sushanksky making his debut as conductor.  There was such a sacred beauty that transmitted through the hall as the seraphic height of Christman’s soprano woven with the lush warmth of Castrello’s mezzo enveloped the audience like a sacred cloth.  Moving through the various movements of the “Stabat Mater” there were deep intense probing moments, as well those reminiscent of operatic fire.  This was especially evident in duet  “Inflammatus et accensus.”  Interspersed with selections for solo voices as well as duets, the Pergolesi provided both vocal and instrumental variety.  Ending with a joyful “Amen” the two soloists brought the work to a triumphant end.


A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music for Shenandoah Conservatory.  Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including Early Music America.  He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.  He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD. Visit