Review: Natalia Khoma commands Bach Cello Suites

Cellist Natalia Khoma.

BY NATALIE PIONTEK

Special to The Post and Courier

Cellist Natalia Khoma exhibited tremendous pacing, stamina and control in a transcendent performance of Bach’s last three cello suites at the Huguenot Church on Friday.

The concert began with the prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 4, which Khoma opened with unusually staccato articulation. This stylistic choice gave Khoma ample room to develop. As the prelude progressed, articulations became smoother, Khoma drew out the durations of notes and her vibrato quickened and deepened. Her dynamic range was immense, and her ability to make a steady crescendo over the course of not seconds, but minutes, was impressive.

She played the last movement, a gigue, with wonderful forward motion. Instead of accenting every strong beat, an effect that can make the listener feel a bit seasick, Khoma chose accents carefully based on the harmonic implications. Khoma was always thinking two minutes ahead, and this created a performance that was constantly engaging.

The Huguenot Church was the ideal setting in which to play these suites. It lacks the boomy modern acoustics of a large concert hall, yet the acoustics aren’t dry either. Khoma’s sound settled pleasantly into the space. She seated herself on the same level as the audience, only about an arm’s length away from the front row. Bach’s Cello Suites inspire an intimacy and a meditative state that the church matched perfectly. The audience was so close to the performer that it had almost as close a connection to the sound escaping from the cello as the cellist. As a listener, one felt privy to a small and sacred space.

Khoma showed a little bit of fatigue toward the end — some difficult passages in the left hand weren’t as cleanly executed as those she played earlier — but this was hardly of any consequence. Her stunning command of the repertoire made the concert a perfect conclusion to this season’s Early Music Series.

Natalie Piontek is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.