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THE ARTS FUSE, Aaron Keebaugh

October 26, 2023

LILI BOULANGER Nocturne et cortège

Francesca dePasquale, violin; Vivian Chang, piano

Working in ideal tandem, DePasquale and Chang-Freiheit packed fervent joy and longing in its taut five-minute expanse. Proof that even these delightful miniatures, in the hands of these extraordinary musicians, can convey impassioned exuberance.

CLAUDE DEBUSSY Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé for soprano & piano

Deborah Selig, soprano; Vivian Chang, piano

Deborah Selig sang with supple nuance, teasing out the warm memories of “Soupir,” reveling in the coy and seductive sweep of “Placet futile,” and unleashing the bold, culminating power of “Éventail.” Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit was a sensitive partner, supporting Selig’s nimble soprano with both delicacy and assurance.



October 17, 2023

CLAUDE DEBUSSY Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé for soprano & piano

Deborah Selig, soprano; Vivian Chang, piano

The wonderful soprano Deborah Selig and pianist Chang-Freiheit gave a stunning account of Debussy’s (1862-1918) gorgeous Trois poems de Stéphane Mallarmé. What a beautiful voice! What beautiful songs! And what fine collaboration!




November 5, 2022

ROBERT SCHUMANN Three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73 for Clarinet and Piano

Performed by Clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

Although Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, for clarinet and piano are most often played on the cello, clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit delivered the set in its original form. Unlike the composer’s Fantasy Pieces for solo piano, these are mood pieces with no titles. The performers painted a tone-picture of sweet melancholy in the first (“Tenderly and with expression”) evoking Schumann’s introspective and dreamy alter ego Eusebius. In the second (“Lively, light”) Gorczyca and Chang-Freiheit enjoyed the contrast between the outer sections and the central one: the former alternated between surging ahead and reflection while the latter’s playful triplets, delightfully passed back and forth between the two instruments, cast care aside. The closing section (Fast and fiery) was in the mode of Schumann’s other alter ego, Florestan: passionate and outgoing. Though the piece presents many challenges to cohesive ensemble (phrases beginning off the beat with clarinet starting ahead of the piano), the artists smoothly surmounted them all and shone particularly in the brilliant accelerando of the coda.


April 24, 2017

GERALD FINZI "Five Bagatelles" for Clarinet and Piano

Performed by Clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit


Finzi’s Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, Op. 23 certainly stands as one of the highlights of the clarinet repertoire. He penned these charming pieces in 1941 prior to his service in the Ministry of War Transport in London during World War II. The first four debuted at one of the famous lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery. Finzi’s publisher, Boosey and Hawkes, however, requested a finale in a fast tempo. The Bagatelles became the composer’s most popular work, which annoyed him as he considered them mere “trifles.” Clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit found much charm and beauty in their felicitous introduction to these rather irresistible mere bagatelles.


May 22, 2016

OLIVIER MESSAIEN “Chants de terre et de ciel”

Performed by Soprano Mary Mackenzie and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit


Mary Mackenzie sang Olivier Messiaen’s Chants de terre et de ciel for soprano & piano from memory with near-perfect success. Throughout the half-hour cycle reveling over the French composer’s faith, his wife and son, focus really remained steadfast on Mackenzie and Chang-Freiheit. Both musicians shouldered the unmistakable language of Messiaen. Mackenzie produced an amazing array of color, something Messaien, who beholds the interval of the tritone as replicating all the colors of the spectrum, would surely have to admire.


All in all, it was less a spiritual voyage à la Messaien than a clear display of fascinating vocal timbres. When Mackenzie was in lower register or in lower volume anywhere in her vast range, she was most compelling and surprisingly alluring. Chang-Freiheit toned down to excellent effect the percussive nature of Messiaen’s piano writing, bringing to it a gorgeousness and robustness. This duo had you listening all the time.

THE BOSTON GLOBE, David Weiniger

March 30, 2015

GEORGE CRUMB “Apparition”

Performed by Soprano Mary Mackenzie and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

“…the performance, by soprano Mary Mackenzie and pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit, was sensational, a fact the audience clearly appreciated.”


March 30, 2015

GEORGE CRUMB “Apparition”

Perfomed by Soprano Mary Mackenzie and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

The musicians ranged brilliantly over a huge spectrum, from intense emotional outcry… to literal whispers and sprechstimme, from percussive piano passagework to barely audible brushed harp effects… This memorable performance was evocative, cathartic, and simply ravishing; at the conclusion the spellbound audience hardly moved a muscle for nearly half a minute before applauding wholeheartedly.


 "Brilliance from Two Chameleons" March 9, 2015

JOHANN STRAUSS OPUS 6 Sonata for Cello and Piano

ELLIOT CARTER 1948 Sonata for Cello and Piano


BEETHOVEN Sonata in A Major for Cello and Piano

Performed by Cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

Now in its 17th season, Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston has just introduced cabaret-type concerts, called “Up Close.” The first, last Sunday afternoon at the Goethe-Institut Boston, one of their usual venues, featured the brilliant, peripatetic cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer with the equally brilliant pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit. Seated around 20 small tables with the instrumentalists in the middle, 80 attendees were treated to a most memorable performance, also wine and chameleon-shaped cookies baked by Artistic Director Deborah Boldin. Before the afternoon’s four pieces, Boldin spoke briefly, illustrating with short excerpts, to explain how she put the program together and to have us see how the cello became a breakout instrument over the years.

Having won awards for her illuminating programming, Boldin put together works for cello and piano by Richard Strauss, Elliott Carter, Frank Bridge, and Beethoven. I had not heard the first three, but off-the-beaten-path pieces on Chameleon programs are the norm, and trust in Boldin’s programming is always richly rewarded.


Written in 1881, completely revised and then published a couple years later, when Strauss was 19, the difficult Opus 6 Sonata features piano with an orchestral sound that throughout the afternoon was a perfect partner for Popper-Keizer. The doleful, almost funereal second movement was a revelation of gorgeous, soulful cello playing. One doesn’t think of Richard Strauss as a composer of string sonatas, but the writing here seemed unusually idiomatic, at least for cello. The third movement, Allegro vivo, hints at the mischief to come in Don Juan and Til Eulenspiegel.

Elliot Carter’s 1948 Sonata for Cello and Piano has become part of the repertoire. While Boldin reminded us that Carter composed 60 works after the age of 90 (he died shortly before he was 104), as a young man he wrote “for the public” in a neoclassic style favored by teacher Nadia Boulanger, but no one seemed interested. So he decided to simply write for himself. She also briefly—no small trick—explained his metric/speed modulations, and how in this Sonata he tries to pry the two instruments apart, assigning “chronometric time” to the piano and “psychological time” to the cello. Carter wrote it when was a young man of 40.

After the brief talk and musical illustration, the two stars treated us to a thrilling performance, which managed to make sensible, often captivating music out of this complex score. Sometimes, the cello and piano battling it out for aural prominence with their very different attacks and rhythms, it felt like sitting at a conservatory in front of two practice rooms whose connecting wall had collapsed. Chang-Freiheit deserves extra applause for navigating the shoals of a knotty piano part, but a huge bravo to both.

Following intermission, the duo played Elégie by Frank Bridge. Written in 1904, it resembles, unsurprisingly, Fauré’s popular Élégie for the same pairing, from 1883. The audience (and I) loved the piece in this dazzling performance.

The best came last, Beethoven’s Sonata in A Major, a perennial favorite. Gabriel Langfur’s informative notes reminded us that this sonata’s sketches appeared about the same time as those for the Fifth Symphony, that the master’s middle period was extraordinary even for Beethoven, with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Choral Fantasy, the Fourth Piano Concerto, and the Opus 70 Piano Trios. The performance by the duo was absolutely wonderful, even to someone familiar with every famous recording of Opus 69.


I have raved many times in these pages about Popper-Keizer’s cello playing, and urge anyone who has not heard him, or pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit, to attend the next Chameleon concert, March 28th and 29th. The next “Up Close” will feature two Chameleon pianists, Gloria Chien and Elizabeth Schumann, in a program of four-hand works by Debussy, Steven Stucky, Schubert, and Stravinsky (Rite of Spring) on April 19th.



March 26, 2014


Performed by Soprano Rachel Calloway, Violinist Tessa Lark and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit


“Lark’s tonally sweet entrance, and the remarkable shimmer of Vivian Chang-Freiheit’s accompaniment perfectly set the atmospheric elements of this piece.”

JOHANNES BRAHMS Sonata No. 1 in f minor for clarinet and piano

Performed by Clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

“Chang-Freiheit’s piano playing was soulful, passionate, playful, delicate, and her sense of ensemble brilliant.”


April 7, 2013


Performed by Violinist Jesse Mills, Cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer, and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

Mills and Popper-Keizer teamed up with pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit for an equally sharp rendering of the Trio in D Minor, Op.3….

The Symphonic grandeur of the three-movement trio featured the musicians in expansive dialogue. The strings, throughout, put across the colorful score with a creamy, yearning sound. Chang-Freiheit answered with deliberate touch and pearly tone.


WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Quintet in E-Flat Major for piano and winds, K. 452

Performed by Oboist Nancy Dimock, Clarinetist Kelli O’Conner, Bassoonist Margaret Phillips, French Hornist Whitacre Hill


“It was a special treat to hear Chang-Freiheit… in an elegant reading of Mozart’s Quintet. The winds achieved a sweet ensemble blend in the outer movements to match Chang-Freiheit’s august playing.”


THE BOSTON GLOBE, Matthew Guerrieri

May 28, 2008


KEVIN PUTS “Ritual Protocol”

Performed by Marimba Soloist William Manley and Pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit

Seven is an important number in Kevin Puts's vibrant "Ritual Protocol" (dating, like the ensemble, from 1998), be it the seven slow steps of the chorale at the piece's center, or the pulsing seven-beat pattern underpinning much of the finale; Chang-Freiheit and marimba soloist William Manley gave a finely shaded, persuasive reading of the music, which borrows freely from populist tonality and minimalism without coming off as beholden to either.

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