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An eclectic array of sounds and artists filled the Music Room at The Phillips Collection in Northwest D.C. when pianist Pallavi Mahidhara and violinist Melissa White recently performed a diverse repertoire for the current Phillips Music season finale. Both women have enjoyed global acclaim for their performances and proactive advocacy to enlighten traditional institutions about varied musical composers.
I particularly focused on composers unfamiliar to me. Amy Beach’s (1867-1944) “Romance” was a composition specifically for violin and piano. Beginning slow, then moving in and out of heightened strokes, I wondered what prompted the emotions I heard in this composition.
“The Bishop’s Processional” was composed by Nokuthula Ngwenyama (B.1976), a South African/Japanese woman who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona. This piece sounded like a segment in a movie soundtrack. I envisioned a travel scene against a vast landscape for a Western genre film.
Mahidhara and White also performed the three movements from “Suite for Violin and Piano” composed by William Grant Still (1895-1978). The first movement, “African Dancer,” said to me, “Ta-dah, here it is!” Next was “Mother and Child,” setting a serene feeling of a loving, satisfying connection with touches of a little anxiousness. The final movement, “Garmin,” was rapid with intent, then it was done.
Mahidhara made her orchestral debut at age 10, performing at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. She is one of a few classically trained East Asian pianists in the world. African American Grammy Award-winning violinist White has performed with some of our country’s most renowned orchestras. Most recently, White was the featured soloist with the National Philharmonic at Strathmore. She then performed with the Harlem Quartet in an event presented by the Library of Congress.
Visit the website of The Phillips Collection, a museum of modern art, for information about their exhibitions and other programs. https://www.phillipscollection.org