Kritzer make sweet music
From Rock Hudson and Doris Day to Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt,
there have been performers whose chemistry is so convincing
it's hard to believe they're not romantically linked beyond
the stage or screen.
The voice-and-guitar duo of Janet Chvatal and Scott Kritzer
is like that. You could be forgiven for assuming they're married
-- they are, just not to each other -- because their affectionate
rapport could put most couples to shame. Their concert Sunday
afternoon at the Church of St. John the Baptist, on the campus
of Oregon Episcopal School, came across like an aftershock
from Valentine's Day.
The performance, which marked the debut of the church's Coulter
Concert Series, was the duo's first in Portland in three years.
After all that time, their easygoing intimacy, which takes
the form of a certain archetype of the male-female relationship,
was immediately familiar to anyone who'd seen them before.
Chvatal, a beauty with a permanent smile, told the audience
that they're both hopeless romantics; Kritzer, stoutly handsome
and self-deprecating, demurred, saying it's "not a guy
thing." She gently coaxed him to talk more; he grudgingly
assented. And as is their tradition, they awarded one of their
CDs to the husband and wife in the audience who had been married
longest (the winners, at 58 years, narrowly edged out another
couple who could claim only 57).
It all might seem cloying if they weren't such solid musicians,
or if their programming wasn't so thoughtfully considered.
But they are, and it is, so Sunday's concert was typically
enchanting. The instrumental combination helped, too -- the
quiet sound of the guitar focused the audience's attention,
putting listeners in a better position to be beguiled by Chvatal's
They were especially strong in their Spanish and Latin American
repertoire: three of the "Songs of Puerto Rico"
by Ernesto Cordero; Heitor Villa-Lobos' arrangement for voice
and guitar of the fifth of his "Bachianas Brasileiras";
and Manuel de Falla's lullaby "Nana." Particularly
impressive was the way they expressed great warmth and depth
of feeling through what was essentially a clean and careful
Kritzer took a few solo turns, notably an arresting performance
of Isaac Albeniz's "Asturias" arranged for guitar.
The two wrapped up the afternoon with songs from films --
which they turned into a cinema quiz for the audience -- and
selections from their latest disc, of operatic arias. In introducing
the encore, Franz Schubert's setting of "Ave Maria,"
Chvatal told the audience it was the first song they played
together -- which was a lot like hearing the story of a couple's
James McQuillen: c/o The Oregonian A&E, 1320 S.W. Broadway,
Portland, OR 97201.