Valentine’s Day in a Crypt? Sure. While much of New York’s population fights for romantic space in over-subscribed restaurants among similarly anxious couples, the living occupants of the crypt under Church of the Intercession are treated to witnessing model a musical partnership.

While harp and mandolin may be an uncommon combination, the intimacy of the vaulted, stone performance allows for a neat study of the collaboration. Avi (mandolin, stubbled, open-necked white shirt under a crisp suit) and Bridget (harp, with a gown as elegant and decorated as her instrument) launch into a Bach Sonata and by the time we’ve reached the Allegro, something about the mandolin’s voice has taken us to some mediterranean grove, the smell of olives gently perfuming the air (although those may be the pre-concert olives we just ate upstairs). The following music by Manuel de Falla goes at more of a lick — particularly in the Seguidilla murciana, it seems that Avi and Bridget rev their musical engines and then away we go on on a hair-pinned ride.

There’s some bonus Tchaikovsky thrown in midway through the programme before things take a turn for the folky. While Marc Lavry’s Three Jewish Dances may be new to the ear, the celebratory tone of the Jewish wedding gives a cultural point of entry through which to understand the feeling they capture. From the Klezmer to the modern (with a brief Ravel-ish detour) our Valentine’s Day is infused with matrimonial musical strains and things feel a little like a barn dance for a while.

Rodrigo rounds off the printed programme (their take on the madrigals with Bridget adding percussion with slaps to the harp’s body) before a series of additional pieces sends us into the night. On a night like tonight, the generosity of these encores was absolutely in the spirit of the evening — an act of giving that stands their tour in good stead and their audiences in romantically good nick as well.

Avi and Bridget’s tour across American continues until February 25th, details here.

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