Duo Appassionata

Dongsok Shin and Gwendolyn Toth concertize together as Duo Appassionata. Duo Appassionata displays their virtuoso talents in literature for two organs, two harpsichords, and fortepiano duet. Dongsok Shin has toured worldwide as the keyboard player of REBEL, including a Carnegie Hall performance with Renee Fleming. Gwendolyn Toth is director of the baroque ensemble ARTEK and has recorded organ music of Scheidemann and Bachís Goldberg Variations. As a husband and wife keyboard team, they bring a unique blend of intimacy and passion to their compelling performances of repertoire ranging from masterpieces of Mozart to a thrilling arrangement of Boccheriniís Fandango.

"When Mozart was eight years old, he was on a performance tour to London, which was organized and directed by his father Leopold. He was a child star, think a young Michael Jackson, who concertized on piano, harpsichord and organ. and performed duets with his sister Nannerl, age 11. They appeared before the royal family, and in the best society houses. During that time in London, the young Mozart struck up a deep friendship with the reigning composer there, the thirty year old Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of JS Bach. Mozartís sister describes this scene:

'Herr Johannes Christian Bach, music master to the queen, took Wolfgang between his knees. He would play a few measures, then Wolfgang would continue. In this manner they would play entire sonatas. Unless you saw it with your own eyes, you would swear that just one person was playing.'

I, and about two dozen other audience members had the pleasure of witnessing a similar performance during the concert that Duo Appassionata presented at the Morris Jumel mansion in Harlem Heights recently. The husband and wife duo, Gwendolyn Toth and Dongsok Shin, played fortepiano duets in the parlor of the Jumel mansion. They presented music by Johann Christian Bach, Mozart, Clementi and Boccherini in the oldest house in NYC, a house that was built when these composers were alive, as Mr. Shin remarked.

The soiree was priceless, it was as if we were the invited guests of the widow Jumel, the richest woman in New York or of the old Tory Morris, in that charming, well preserved old hill top mansion. I am speaking not so much of time travel, as caste and social station travel.

Their performance reminded me of watching a great tennis mixed doubles team, with a smooth expertise, and absolute sensitivity to the partner. The virtuosity of sharing the narrow keyboard of the eighteenth century piano, a copy of Mozartís instrument built by the Viennese firm of Walter, was most impressive. This was generous, intimate music making.

And what elegant and sophisticated music it was. The Bach Duo was a thing of sincere and direct beauty of melody. The Mozart Sonata, for four hands, added to this kind of beauty, an almost staggering architecture, of great variety and complexity.

Clementiís Sonata shone with an accomplished professionalism. Mozart and Clementi also had a personal acquaintance. They participated in a battle, to see who was the best. Judges regarded it as inconclusive. Mozart had nothing nice to say about Clementi, calling him a ďmere mechanicusĒ, and worse. Clementi on the other hand had nothing but compliments for his rival. Mozart was a bit of a stinker.

The final piece was a piano arrangement by Dongsok Shin, of the well known Fandango Quintett for guitar and string quartet. It is a rhythmic show piece, and a firy dance, calling forth imaginary castanets and flashing heels. the pleasing alternations of piano and forte of that grand wooden instrument made it easy to see why the piano ascended to its reigning position among instruments more than two hundred years ago." - Johannes Holub, New York City, 11/10/07

For booking information, please call, write or e-mail: Gwendolyn Toth
Director of ARTEK
170 West 73 #3C
New York, NY 10023

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Duo Appassionata is part of ARTEK, an early music organization located in New York City
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The Art of the Early Keyboard, Inc.
170 West 73rd Street, #3C
New York, NY 10023
Office telephone: 212-967-9157

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