Williams students kick off Artsbreak in style

On Sunday, the Clark Art Institute presented the first of a series of Artsbreak concerts. The concert included flute students of Jerilee Kechley: Kian Peng Koh ’98 accompanied by pianist Kari Thorsen ’98; and first-year students Peggy Nam, Elly Spensley and Jessica Robbins, with Nam accompanied by Susan Lai ’01, and Spensley and Robbins accompanied by Edwin Lawrence. Christine Pace rounded out a flute quartet of all first-year students, concluding the flute portion of the program. Their performance of movements from “Jour d’t la Montagne” by Bozza was enjoyable and well-received. “Au bord du torrent” almost swept myself and the audience out of our seats with its chromatic descending triads and fast tempo.

Finishing the program was baritone Richard Giarusso ’00, who delivered an astounding performance of Schumann’s “Dichterliebe,” composed in 1840. The text of the lengthy song cycle by poet Heinrich Heine, is a painful story that brings out the romantic in all of us. The narrator, sung in the first person by the baritone, journeys through a host of emotions ranging from jovial, infatuated, inspired, bitter, wounded, alienated, pained, nostalgic, obsessed, and finally, into departure. This text combined with Schumann’s patient score (it never lays it on too thick) essentially leaves your heart empty in sorrow for the poor soul. The piece starts unassumingly, and gives little hint as to what is to come. With incredible composure, Giarusso built up emotion over a period of several songs up to ‘Hr’ Ich Das Liedchen Klingen,’ in which the lover proclaims to his lost love that “no ray of light falls in the darkness of your heart.”

From there Giarusso sailed through very difficult music to the end of the 16-movement work, which ends with the marvelous ‘Die Alten Bsen Lieder,’ one of the most famous songs of all time. Pianist Robin Kibler accompanied Giarusso; the Schumann lieder calls for some difficult work at the keyboard, although it doesn’t take center-stage until the last seconds of the cycle. Kibler delivered a very strong performance in that capacity.

Giarusso’s voice, truly a rarity, is full and fairly mature, especially for a 20 year-old. He produces a deep sounding sonority with a vibrato that never interferes with his control or accuracy. In addition, his pronunciation of the German language is quite good and he is refreshing to watch since he actually knows the full translation of the text which he is singing. This is made obvious in his intonation of each word, essential in a piece such as the “Dichterliebe.” “I’ve been working on this cycle since early September, and the process of preparing it has been immensely rewarding,” Giarusso wrote in a letter to several of his friends and teachers who attended the concert.

The concert was held in a gallery filled with Renoirs, Monets, Sisleys and Pissaros. The audience included many community members of the Williams Choral Society whom Giarusso conducted in two songs on their Saturday evening concert in Chapin Hall, “Music Around The World,” fulfilling his duty as assistant conductor to Dr. E. Wayne Abercrombie.

The next Artsbreak concert will be Sunday, April 26 with the Williams College Handbell Choir, under the direction of Douglas Moore.

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