l-r: Elizabeth Pridgen, William Ranson, Helen Hwaya Kim, Kenn Wagner, Charae Krueger and Yinzi Kong. (credit: Julia Dokter)

Top Atlanta musicians collaborate again in live-streamed “Chamber Music Celebration”

Mark Gresham | 11 AUG 2020

On Sunday afternoon, nine of Atlanta’s top chamber musicians gathered to perform a collectivelive-streamed concert from the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. The highly motivated event was a follow-up of a very successful live-streamed concert held on June 14 at at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, which I previewed on June 11.

Eight of the musicians who performed in that mid-June concert returned for Sunday’s performance: violinists Helen Hwaya Kim, violist Yinzi Kong cellists Charae Krueger and Christopher Rex, pianists Julie Coucheron, Elizabeth Pridgen and William Ransom, and organist Jens Korndoerfer. Violinist David Coucheron was originally scheduled to complete the original roster, but was unable to return from Norway in time to rehearse and , so was replaced in this concert by violinist Kenn Wagner.


Within his opening remarks, Jens Korndoerfer, Director of Worship and Arts and Organist at First Presbyterian Church, had this to day:

“We musicians, we love to perform and we love to share our music with a large audience. That’s why the pandemic hit us so hard when in March. One by one, all the venues were closed down and all the performances were canceled. Here at First Presbyterian Church, we chose a somewhat different approach. Obviously we had to close down the church. We couldn’t have the congregation [gather]for servicesand we couldn’t have and audience for concerts. Howe4ver, we decided not to cancel our concerts, but instead to move them to live stream. We’ve been very successful with that, and actually we reach a larger number of people than we usually get for in-person concerts. The last concert. The last concert we had with this chamber music group, we had more than 3,000 people tine in online. This sanctuary, this beautiful sanctuary, seats 700 people.”

Of course, online audience can come and go as they please, not necessarily watching and listening from start to finish. But that’s okay as well: My own observations during the June 14 broadcast that at any given moment, the audience fluctuated from around 450 to around 650 viewers at any given moment, and that’s more than most local live chamber ensembles get at a traditional in-person concert venue. (Worth noting here that Atlanta’s preeminent recital and chamber venue, Spivey Hall, has a total capacity of 492.) That points to the viability of video streaming as a significant element in the future of performing arts — even after the pandemic is long over. According to pianist Julie Coucheron, The June 14 concert generated enough contributions from viewers and patrons to compensate the nine musicians to some degree this time around. So there is some hope for the video medium in that respect.


The afternoon program,comprised of single movements from larger works plus a couple of short pieces in the mix, leaned heavily in favor of 19th-century Romantic repertoire, represented by music of Dohnanyi, Mendelssohn, Arensky, Schumann, Rheinberger, Beethoven and Dvořák. The two exceptions were the “Arioso” from the Suite for Two Cellos and Piano by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911 – 2007), which, though modern, had its own retro-Romantic lyrical sentiments, with the Classical era represented by the first movement to Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in an arrangement for piano four hands (a practice that was popular in the 19th century, the common way of getting familiar with a symphonic work in the parlor at home).

While I reviewed the June concert via the internet stream, in this instance I was fortunate to be invited as journalist to observe Sunday’s concert in person – but there was no real “audience,” and the Church’s pandemic restrictions, as well as those of the State of Georgia, were closely observed by those few present, including myself, the nine musicians, and the video crew. In that respect it was more like being in a studio recording session: no noise or applause allowed, of course, and only the musicians were within view of the cameras. My presence made it possible for me to observe the differences between the in-person experience and the online video experience.

Christopher Rex, cello, and Julie Coucheron, piano. (credit: Julia Dokter)

Christopher Rex, cello, and Julie Coucheron, piano. (credit: Julia Dokter)

First Presbyterian’s excellent acoustics lent themselves to good listening in-person, even distanced at the back rows of the Sanctuary, even though my own preference is for being closer to the musicians under more normal circumstances. The well-done audio of video stream gave online listeners that kind of presence that comes with closer seats a smaller room without feeling like the listener is sitting in the performers laps. Like sports, you don’t get the “live” feeling but you do get a kind of “presence” that affords both aural and visual detail you cannot get from the back ofconcert hall or church of 700 seats. Both have advantages. They are, after all, different mediums possess their own unique attributes, strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, the balance of musical forces was far better in the video stream than in the in-person experience of the “Finale” from Josef Rheinberger’s Suite for Organ Trio and Strings (performed by Kim, Rex and Korndoerfer). That was the right choice of outcome because the audience was online, not in the church itself. Same for the visual element of that piece, which offered a change of pace by incorporating some views from inside the organ loft.

Charae Krueger, cello. (credit: Julia Dokter)

Charae Krueger, cello. (credit: Julia Dokter)

With the absence of applause, bows by the musicians feel somewhat awkward, both in person and on video, but there is a desire for some sort of acknowledgment of the audience viewing online. It’s just that the traditional bow may not be it. As musicians are obliged to the video medium in this pandemic, solutions will come with the learning process. Non-traditional traditional transitions between works (filling the time between) is another production consideration. In the meantime, what the video viewer sees “as it happens” is what they get – with, of course, titling added.
of the first movement.

Because the online nature of the performance made impossible a traditional post-concert meet-and-greet reception after the concert, a Zoom virtual conference between musicians and online audiences was held afterward.

Whether in person as an observer or viewed by video stream, it proved an enjoyable, satisfying concert. If you missed the live stream on Sunday, have no fear. As of this writing, the archived video is still available for viewing online at firstpresatl.org/concerts-at-first/ The concert begins at 16:00 with introductory remarks. Here’s the complete playlist:

  • Ernst von Dohnanyi: Piano Quintet No. 1 C Minor, 1. Allegro (Kim, Wagner, Kong, Krueger, Coucheron)
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Adagio and Allegro Brillliante (Pridgen, Coucheron)
  • Gian Carlo Menotti: Suite for Two Cellos and Piano, 11I.Arioso (Krueger, Rex, Coucheron)
  • Anton Arensky: Trio No. 1 in D Minor, I. Allegro morderato (Kim, Krueger. Pridgen)
  • Woldgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40, I. Molto allegro, arranged for piano fourr hands ( Coucheron, Ransom)
  • Robert Schumann: ”Rasch,” Op. 113 / Romance in A major, Op. 94 (Kong, Ransom)<./li>
  • Josef Rheinberger: Suite for Organ Trio and Strings, 1V. Finale (Kim, Krueger, Korndoerfer)
  • Lujdwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, 1V, Allegro con brio, arranged for piano four hands. (Coucheron, Ransom)
  • Antonín Dvořák: Piano Quintet in A major Op. 81, IV. Finale: Allegro (Kim, Wagner, Kong, Krueger, Ransom, Pridgen, Coucheron (the three pianists taking turns, round robin style).
Yinzi Kong, viola, William Ransom, Piano. (credit: Julia Dokter)

Yinzi Kong, viola, William Ransom, Piano. (credit: Julia Dokter)