The Rose Ensemble Closes Tour in Durham with Beauty and Variety
It would have been impossible to not learn anything from attending this concert. Sramek’s extremely thorough notes included pictures, translations, and the origin/method of transcription for each piece. … Titled “Welcome the Stranger: The Promise of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica,” this concert’s program had many facets. It not only told the story of revered twin saints in Southern Italy, St. Benedict and St. Scholastica (the former, of course, regarded as the father of western monasticism with his influential Regula), but also provided an interesting contrast between medieval chant and Renaissance motets that shared the same inspiration and subject material. … Unison, flowing chants and polyphonic motets alike were performed with utmost clarity and smoothness. … It is interesting to hypothesize what these works might have sounded like as performed in their original setting, by monks and nuns trained only in the Medieval or Renaissance style, rather than our modern musicians, with decades of training among them. It’s safe to say that the quality of The Rose Ensemble’s performance, aided by 21st century and expression, was just as marvelous, if not better than the 16th century Cassinese congregation!

Chelsea Huber
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
The Borromeo String Quartet: Magnificent Music-Makers
So given that any ensemble in this league [the review’s A-list] plays all the right notes and rhythms and normally with élan, what separates the Borromeo musicians from the others? A Biblical phrase (St. Paul) comes to mind: they play “with the spirit and with the understanding also.” While Nicholas Kitchen, Kristopher Tong, Mai Motobuchi, and Yeesun Kim are all artists in their own right, their interaction with each other, intensified by the years they have been together, makes them greater than the sum of their parts. To see them play is like seeing the inner parts of a watch movement. The subtle eye contacts, the slight tilt of a head, the direction of a bow: each communication, though unheard, affects their sound. The result is that they are not simply performing a musical work; they are creating a music work, as if channeling the composer’s own genius.

What does this produce in terms of the music? This afternoon, for starters, a scintillating Franck quartet which simply could not be surpassed: you will never hear a better performance.

The closing bars of the third movement [of the Debussy quartet] were ravishingly beautiful, a shimmering chauson with plainsong-like melodies, dissolving into an ethereal pianissimo. The bravura close of the Tres vif finale brought the audience to its feet.

If you want to hear unsurpassed musicianship, virtuoso technique, and a unique unity of performance, go to a concert by the Borromeo Quartet!

Geoffrey Simon
Classical Voice of North Caroline (
Andrew Tyson Offers French Repertoire at St. Stephen’s
Next came three choice selections from the twenty that comprise Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jesus by Olivier Messiaen (1908-92). … His astounding technique and interpretative depth were breathtaking. His dynamic range was extraordinary from floated pppp to thundering ffff! His tonal colors were kaleidoscopic and his control of Messiaen’s glacial slow parts was masterful. His playing of the repeated bass notes that ends XI, the beating of the baby Jesus’ heart, was magical.

Tyson conjured vivid recreations of the three parts of this piece [Liszt’s Valee d’Obermann]. The despair of Obermann was evoked by the dark, unfocused “themes” of the opening. The surging intensity of the middle part was well brought out leading to Tyson’s thundering octaves that led to a bright bravura finish.

William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Schubert's First Piano Trio & Two Duos at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
December 2, 2018

The concert series at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church rivals any in the Triangle for musical interest. The return of native son, violinist Nicholas Kitchen, whether as leader of the Borromeo Quartet or with his wife, cellist Yeesun Kim, and pianist Meng-Chieh Liu as a piano trio was cause for excitement.

Kim and Liu gave a gripping performance [of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata] of great intensity and expressive nuance. Despite having the lid of the Steinway fully raised, Liu’s sound was perfectly balanced, never once covering Kim’s full rich cello tone. Her intonation was ideal, and her spinning of Schubert’s melodic line was seamless as her concentration swept the listener up in its wake.

I half expected to see smoke arise from the bridge of Kitchen’s violin; he bowed as if possessed during the fast paced allegretto portion [of Schubert’s Fantasy in C]. Every arrow of the virtuosi’s quiver was tossed off with aplomb. Again, Liu’s keyboard was perfectly balanced as he played with comparable intensity. The crystalline clarity of his playing was a constant delight in all three works. …I will long remember the white-hot intensity of this duo’s performance.

I have lost count of the number of performances of this trio I have heard, but this one will resonate as unsurpassed. … Never miss a chance to hear these musicians in either duo or trio performance.

William Thomas Walker

Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Andrew Tyson's Superb Miroirs Highlights Recital
Durham's Hope Valley and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church seem to have nurtured a remarkable number of world-class musicians. The church pews were well-filled with knowledgeable music lovers for a marvelous recital by award-winning pianist Andrew Tyson.

- William Thomas Walker-
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
The Borromeo String Quartet's Miraculous Traversal of All Six Bartók String Quartets
March 8, 2015

Having heard most of the big name string quartets from the past forty years, it is my belief that the Borromeo String Quartet is not only the finest playing today but is well within the top five chamber music ensembles of all time. Quite a bold statement, and it almost gets a bit embarrassing from all the gushing and fawning that I have previously written and am about to do in this article.

There were three hours of playing some of the most intense, difficult, and mentally and physically exhausting music ever written [Bartok's six string quartets], but when it was all done, all four players looked as if they could do it all again.I try to compare this with something else, perhaps some athletic feat, but anything I can imagine comes up short when compared to the enormity and perfection of what the Borromeo String Quartet accomplished, not only here but also several times a year. Sitting through anything for three hours takes some degree of mental endurance even for the audience, but the Borromeo String Quartet is on such personal and intimate terms with these works that they "simply" lead you along a long, fantastic journey without any lessening of interest. Add to that the fact that I did not hear even one lapse in intonation, rhythmic precision, or ensemble tightness in three hours of playing, and it becomes the burning bush of musical performance.

In the Woody Allen film Manhattan, there is a scene where he makes a list of the things which make life worth living. If I were to do that, I'd certainly include hearing the Borromeo String Quartet live – regardless of what they are playing.

- Jeffrey Rossman -
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
St. Stephen's Concert: Brilliant, Fiery Performances of Piano Chamber Music by Mendelssohn
February 8, 2015

Kitchen, Kim, and Beyer played the socks off this effusive trio! Kim’s cello was so rich and warm sounding in the opening bars! Her phrasing brought out the song-like quality of much of Mendelssohn’s scoring. Kitchen brought a searing intensity to the violin part which was paired with precise intonation and equally effective phrasing. Both string players had superb palettes of color and dynamics. Beyer’s keyboard playing was a marvel of clarity, so beautifully articulated and perfectly balanced with the strings, despite having the piano’s lid fully up.

-William Walker Thomas-
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Concluding Concert of Beethoven's Piano and Violin Sonatas Abounds with Pyrotechnics and Poetry
November 16, 2014

One of the most exciting and satisfying series of concerts has been the three-concert cycle of the complete violin sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) that has taken place in St. Stephen's Episcopal Church over the past almost four years.... These concerts featured two of this musically enlightened Hope Valley church's most internationally successful and talented artists, violinist Nicholas Kitchen and pianist Andrew Tyson.....
Kitchen's gorgeous tone and immaculate intonation were evident from the first opening phrase. Both he and Tyson played with a marvelous range of color and dynamics.......
Kitchen's and Tyson's interpretation and performance of this monument of the repertoire were astounding. The whirlwind intensity of Beethoven's rapid composition carried over into their Dionysian-like transport as the musical sparks flew between them in their race through the fast-paced and rapid interchanges between their parts. Their ability to play so precisely in such a tornado of notes was breathtaking. Wow!.....
It takes real artistry to keep Sonata No. 10 from being overshadowed when it follows the raging storm that is the Kreutzer! Kitchen and Tyson pulled it off magically...
- William Thomas Walker -
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Baroque Bookends: Monteverdi and Bach
Sept 14, 2014

Voices of a New Renaissance is an ensemble of eleven very fine voices, now in its second year, under the leadership of Nathan Leaf, who is Director of Choral Activities at NCSU and Choir Director at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Durham, where this program was performed. The concert, titled "Baroque Bookends," featured music of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).............The madrigal "Non partir, ritrosetta" (Coy maiden, do not leave me) was sung by Erica Dunkle and Jennifer Seiger, mezzos, and DeMar Neal, baritone. It lists all the miseries of unrequited love and ends with the line "You are leaving me and I must die." Ah, love, thou fowl deceiver! Do you suppose they took this stuff seriously? The singing was delightful and a bit playful.

- Ken Hoover -
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Andrew Tyson: A Pianist of Ever-Deepening Artistry
June 1, 2014

The dominant impression taken from Tyson's performance is one of utter fearlessness. As he has developed over the years, he has allowed himself to play with a focused powerfulness – power that does not overwhelm the musical intent or lead to a litter of missed notes on the stage floor. Listening to each of the many contrasting sections, it seemed to this listener that there might be no tonal or dynamic shading, no voicing challenge that he would not be able to coax out of the piano.

- Patrick Taggart -
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Sizzling Playing of Outstanding Program by Borromeo Quartet
Feb. 23, 2014

High on any critic's list of the best string quartets is the Borromeo Quartet, which gave brilliant performances of a very enterprising program as part of the Concert Series at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

- William Thomas Walker -
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Chamber Masterworks Resound at St. Stephen's
Jan 5, 2014

The three performers were clearly of one interpretive mind. Theirs was a full-throated reading, muscular and vibrant, assertive and highly musical.The piano is required to do much of the heavy lifting, and it was in that duty that pianist Beyer proved his mettle. The sound coming from the fine Steinway, rented for this occasion, was rich and balanced. Beyer played with great authority and sensitivity.

- Patrick Taggart
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Lee's Recital Shows Flentrop Organ's Romantic Side
Sept 29, 2013

In a masterful performance, Lee succeeded in making the organ sound far more like the German Romantic instruments for which Rheinberger wrote. ... Lee played the Passacaglia with a firm grasp of its form, drawing upon all the organ's colors to illumine the variations which Rheinberger weaves over and around the work's theme.

- Geoffrey Simon
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Beethoven: The Ten Violin Sonatas in Cycle: Second of Three Concerts
January 6, 2013

The Kreutzer offered music making that would be the pride of any concert stage in the nation, or in any metropolis internationally - truly world class.

- Tom Moore
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Voices of a New Renaissance – A Warm Welcome
December 2, 2012

The program opened with the warmest welcome to a concert performance you could imagine: The chorus “Welcome to all the Pleasures” from Henry Purcell’s 1683 Ode for St Cecelia’s Day. This was the first outing for Voices of a New Renaissance, a consort of professional musicians from the region with the guiding principal of vocal and linear beauty found in music from the renaissance period. We welcome them to the generous mix of musical offerings in this area. They fill a need for this music with its purity and beauty of melodic line, its intimate comment on a variety of elements of life and its reminder of the vitality of the roots of all western music. The professionalism and creative imagination of this ensemble holds great promise.

- Ken Hoover
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Lippincott Brings out the Flentrop Organ's Best
November 4, 2012

Joan Lippincott, Professor Emerita of Organ at Westminster Choir College, continues her active performing career as a recitalist and recording artist. She displayed her superb technique and musicianship in a program which was tailored for the French-Baroque-style Flentrop organ at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. Congratulations and thanks to St. Stephen's Concert Series for continuing the high quality of their programs with Dr. Lippincott's performance.

- Geoffrey Simon
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Beethoven's Original Scores Fuel Kitchen and Tyson's Revelatory Performances
January 8, 2012

"St. Stephen's Episcopal one of the best venues for chamber music in the region. The area has produced more than its share of musical talent, and two of its favorite sons, violinist Nicholas Kitchen and pianist Andrew Tyson, were on hand for the first of three annual concerts encompassing the complete sonatas for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. The late afternoon sun set the sanctuary's modern stained glass ablaze in an auspicious start of the all-Beethoven cycle... There was no dust gathered on the Seventh Sonata's score given Kitchen's and Tyson's fiery playing of this mature work. Listeners needed "seat belts" to hang in with the duo as they soared through the fast movements. Future performances of the rest of the sonatas - resuming in the 2012-13 season - ought not to be missed!"

-William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
J. S. Bach and His Influences Tied Andrew Tyson's Superb Piano Recital Together
December 11, 2011

"Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church, in the Hope Valley section of Durham, has a long history of presenting rising and established musical talent. The local area has produced an above average number of significantly talented youngsters including, Andrew Tyson, this Concert Series' piano recital soloist... The infinite and subtle range of Tyson's dynamics and kaleidoscope of color was breathtaking as was the depth of emotions with which he invested each prelude."

-William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Borromeo String Quartet Concert at St. Stephen's Church Had a Russian Flavor
April 18, 2010

"One of the delights of the St. Stephen's Concert Series has been regular appearances of the Borromeo String Quartet... The Borromeo Quartet's program sandwiched a new work by Lera Auerbach (b.1973) between an early and a middle string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). The Second String Quartet No. 2 in G, Op. 18/2, the shortest quartet of the six in the set, most nearly resembles the classical style of Haydn and Mozart. The short, supple elegant phrases of the opening movement led to the Second Quartet's nickname, "Compliments," the give-and-take having been said to resemble the exaggerated courtesy of 18th century salons. A serene slow movement, dominated by the first violin, follows. Both violins toss melodic flourishes back-and-forth in the Scherzo. These high spirits are carried over into the rollicking and syncopated phrases of the last movement which the composer referred to as "unbuttoned." The Borromeo players brought out all the elegance of this witty early work while balancing Beethoven's heavy humorous touches. Intonation and phrasing were perfectly judged and dynamics were subtly scaled for maximum effect."

-William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Kitchen and Tyson Strike Interpretative Sparks on St. Stephen's Concert Series
November 21, 2010

"The Historic Hope-Valley based St. Stephen's Episcopal Church has a long history of promoting music on its Concert Series... 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..."

-William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Saint Stephen's Christmas Concert: Borromeo String Quartet in Dual Roles
December 14, 2008

"Concerts by the distinguished Borromeo String Quartetin Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church are always a treat and have the air of homecoming. This is because of first violinist Nicholas Kitchen's family's long association with the church's ambitious musical and spiritual life. Instead of their usual straight chamber music concert, the quartet was featured both as guest artists for two works and as accompanists for the Chamber Choir at Saint Stephen's."

"The Borromeo musicians met every benchmark in their interpretation. Their dynamics and timbre were gorgeous and their intonation was crisp and clear. Kitchen's hushed violin at the transition between the slow adagio opening movement and the magical, faster tempo of the succeeding allegro was breathtaking. Mai Motobuchi's full, rich viola sound was welcome throughout the complicated and constantly changing tempos of the andante. Everyone seemed to have a ball with the helter-skelter pizzicatos of the presto. Yeesun Kim's sumptuous cello sound was a solid anchor in this movement and the rich palette of her plucked string sound was amazing. The full forte sound of the ensemble in the short adagio which followed was perfectly balanced while their performance of the concluding allegro was rhythmically exciting."

-William Thomas Walker
Classical Voice of North Carolina (
Tompkins Evokes Eloquence from St. Stephen's Flentrop
January 28, 2007

"Tompkins used the church's three-manual Flentrop organ (1977) to great effect adding another "notch in the post" of the prestigious "Concerts at Saint Stephen's" series... All performances were splendid, convincing readings of music that deserves to be heard and played many times... All in attendance last Sunday heard a fine performer on a world-class instrument. Such performances in St. Stephen's concert series deserve capacity crowds."

-David Arcus
Classical Voice of North Carolina (

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