Nadja plays and speaks–and brings down the house

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The Vail Series delivered once again on Thursday night, with a performance that allowed audience members to feel like they were on the inside of something extraordinary.

“That was a charming piece,” violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg said from her seat on stage. “It sounded easy, but it’s not. It’s hard.” She was describing the Italian Serenade by Hugo Wolf.

She was right. The opening piece had a deceptively easy buoyancy, but what seemed truly effortless for the audience in Swasey Chapel was feeling a part of an evening of music that was exquisitely rigorous and warmly inviting.

The 19 members of the conductor-less New Century Chamber Orchestra were unlike any stereotype of classical musician as they exchanged relaxed, open smiles and gestures between attacks of flawless execution—at times it felt more like pleasurable sport than virtuosic skill.

The bite-sized Bartok folk dances left you wanting more, and the lush Tchaikovsky Serenade was delicious, but the piece that had everyone on their feet was by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzola. With its idiosyncratic turns of drama, lyricism, and passion, Salerno-Sonnenberg and her orchestra nearly set the chapel on fire on a very cold winter night.

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