Faculty Prove Their PhDs
Chapel was almost completely empty and eerily quiet at 3:45 last
Sunday. If sounds of the faculty performers warming up hadn’t
leaked out of the lobby doors, few would have realized that there
was a concert at all. The Oberlin Faculty Chamber Music Series concerts,
while not well publicized or well-attended, are some of the most
interesting, eclectic and exciting concerts Oberlin has to offer.
Rarely do the Conservatory faculty have the opportunity to drop
the obligations of being a professor and prepare music with friends
in a non-competitive atmosphere. In fact, the camaraderie between
performers and their students and faculty friends was heartwarming.
People say that conservatories are cutthroat institutions, but Oberlin
certainly is not.
Alla Aranovskaya started the program with a performance of Prokofiev’s
“Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94.” Aranovskaya’s
playing in the St. Petersburg quartet has been unpredictable during
the last couple of years, both at their performances at Oberlin
and at their residency at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Conn.
While she plays some pieces with subtle and delicate phrasing that
makes them speak, like one by Shostakovich, some of her performances
lack in profundity. Her playing in this concert however was superb.
Her intonation was very good and her tone was beautiful. Her phrasing
was expressive and there was plenty of robust energy in her interpretation.
Her physical movements didn’t obstruct her tone production
as they sometimes do when she plays in the quartet and the piece
was very carefully prepared. Whether the mics in front of the stage
were set there to record her performance or not, you could tell
that she had practiced quite a bit for this one.
Roger Chase, viola, and Richard Hawkins, clarinet, followed, bringing
with them the quirky, relatively obscure “Prelude, Allegro
and Pastorale for Clarinet and Viola” by Rebecca Clarke. The
subtleties of their performance were endless. Every phrase was delicately
formed, and intentionally and carefully played by these two masters.
For many this was probably the first exposure to Clarke’s
works, and it was a convincing one. Often the viola held chords
underneath a clarinet melody, but Chase was a never a subordinate
player. Even when the viola part was very simple, smaller inflections
of dynamic and character supported Hawkins’s lines perfectly.
This performance was truly the highlight of the concert.
Next, Lorraine Manz, mezzo-soprano, performed the Brahms “Two
Songs For Mezzo-soprano, Viol, and Piano, Op. 91” with the
help of Aleksey Koptev, viola, and James Howsmon, piano. The readings
of these pieces were well done and fairly well balanced. Manz’s
tone was full and deep and reflected the typical heavy Brahms sound
well without drowning in it. Koptev was occasionally a little overbearing
and not as accompanimental, but most of his playing was solid and
The concert came full circle with Aranovskaya and her Quartet playing
the relatively light “Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34”
with Richard Hawkins and Lydia Frumkin, piano. The performance was
great even if the piece was just satisfactory. Hawkins’s melodies
were clear and seamless and the ensemble supported his playing well.
It was an effective finale and the audience responded well.
Rarely in the professional music world do situations like this occur,
when truly inspiring musicians can come together of their own accord
and collaborate to make great temporary ensembles, and play music
that inspires them.