Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Our Music Critic Reviews A Wesleyan Classical Concert

Submitted by Peter Drewniany


Our way takes us by foot: a tantalizingly warm November evening welcomed an auspicious evening of musicianship; the evening's atmosphere tingled most unseasonably.  It's been some years since we last had the privilege of attending an event at the Crowell Concert Hall, and the space did not fail to live up to our nostalgic memories.  Instructor John Biatowas welcomed us all with a concise introduction, and we then moved on into the music.

The show opened with selections from Carl Maria von Weber's Trio for Piano, Flute, and Cello in G-Minor, Op. 63, by a trio of capable underclassmen.  We most enjoyed the Sturm und Drang; sophomore pianist Irene Westfall was both technically adept and expressive in tone as she shepherded her freshmen compatriots through the tension.  Cellist Seren Lurie and flautist Anna Du made impressive debuts, and we look forward to watching them blossom. 

Next on the program were selections from two French composers of the Post-Romantic period.  Sophomore Dustin Qian's lively dancing on flute did somewhat contrast with junior Eilson He's more sensuous tendencies on the violin, but such is romanticism. Freshman Lewis Chao coaxed enormous spirit from the piano; indeed, perhaps his exuberance waxed a bit too greatly.  In the middle of Jacques Ibert’s Two Interludes for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord the damper pedal became dislodged from the piano with a resounding *THUMP*.   The trio ably guided us to the end of the composition, but seemed a bit flustered by their predicament. 

At this point one must call attention to Instructor Biatowas's patient shepherding of his students.  He, with the aid of a female colleague, graciously shifted the piano backstage where it might find some timely R&R.  Dilettantes that we are, we failed to make a note of his colleague's name, but we give thanks to both for their dedication.

Lacking a piano, we readjusted our itinerary, and proceeded to the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581.  Zachary Drum, a PhD candidate in biology, demonstrated himself to be a man of many talents.  He navigated the virtuosic clarinet line first penned for Austrian multi-instrumentalist Anton Stadler with commanding grace and poise.  Third-year violinists Henry Lin-David and Kate Luo provided delightful treble interplay, and cellist Anna Zagoren, in her final year at Wesleyan, appeared to be in rare form.  We must also highlight the delightful musicianship of sophomore Catherine Cheng on viola, and we look forward to witnessing more of her vibrant contributions.

At this point the piano reemerged, and our French interpreters took their places back on stage.  Mr's Qian, He, and Chao performed an intriguing rendition of Mel Bonis's Suite Op. 59.  They played with vigor and spirit, particularly in light of their earlier technical difficulties, and revealed themselves to be quite sensitive performers.

The next trio of performers was eagerly greeted by the audience, third-year student Esme Lytle even had her own cheering section.  While this seemed perhaps a bit out of the ordinary for a chamber music ensemble, it did set an enthusiastic tone for their moving rendition of the third movement from Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 1.  Ms. Lytle's strong performance on violin was joined with charming effervescence by senior Lillian Li on piano.  Cellist Paul McLaren, in his junior year of studies, capably rounded out the trio.

Our final piece of repertoire for the evening was the first movement from Robert Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 47. Sophomore Luisa Rodriguez shimmered on violin.  Freshman Sofia Cohen, on what sounded a very formidable viola, danced up into the trebles, and then down into lower registers where she found herself harmoniously enmeshed in the cello work of junior Hayley Qin.  Sophomore Michael Brandt's focused enterprise behind the keyboard made for a delightful and complete whole.

All told, a splendid evening at our local center of higher learning.  We eagerly await future performances!


Unknown said...

The major delight for me in reading this piece was to observe Peter D. in action--observing, absorbing, describing, guiding our attention in a way that made be both regret having missed a noteworthy series of performances and at the same time being encouraged by this evidence of virtuosity among Wesleyan's young musicians. And perhaps most of all I am heartened by Peter's demonstration of the art of description.
Karl E. Scheibe, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Professor Scheibe, for your kind and encouraging words!

-Peter D

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your fine review. Good to see a (rare) review on the "Eye"!

Hope to see you at First Church and at choir rehearsals....when you're ready!

Jean C.