In the midst of all of the commotion surrounding Winter Carnival, Williams Chamber Players presented a concert titled “Spanish Echoes” on Saturday night. As described by the department, “Spanish Echoes” featured works by composers who “present pieces that embody some aspect of Iberian inspiration.” As Brooks-Rogers began to fill, it was clear that most College students were preoccupied with other Saturday plans, as most people in the audience were from the Williamstown community. By the end of the show, it was obvious that many of my peers had missed out on something amazing.
The Chamber Players is a resident chamber ensemble that plays regularly through out the year for all members of the community. This concert showcased the talents of several artists-in-residence, other faculty members and one student, Leo Brown ’11, on violin. The first composer to be featured was Luigi Boccherini. With only five musicians on stage at this time – Artist Associate Joana Genova and Brown on violin, Artist Associate Scott Woolweaver on viola, Artist Associate Nathaniel Parke on cello and Studio Instructor Robert Phelps on the guitar – the sound that they created in Brooks-Rogers was both beautiful and impressive. As a testament to the advantages of a small space, Brooks-Rogers’ intimate setting gave every song a larger, more powerful sound.
The three Boccherini pieces – Pastorale, Allegro maestoso and Grave assai: Fandango – can all be characterized by a slow sound that was interspersed with loud emotionally charged sections. The Spanish influence was present in both the guitar interludes and the use of Spanish castanettes.
Benjamin Britten was the next composer to be featured with his 10-part piece entitled Lachrymae (meaning “tears” in Latin.) Woolweaver introduced the composer by explaining that the piece was written as an “abstract reflection” on the John Dowland song “Flow My Tears.” The only instrument included was the piano, played by Doris Stevenson. Many of the sections can be described as haunting, featuring a very low piano part, beautiful work on the viola by Woolweaver and mournful feeling in general that left the audience with chills.
The work of Douglas Boyce ’92 was played next by Studio Instructor Andy Truex on tenor, Director of the Clarinet Choir Susan Martula on clarinet, Artist-in-Residence and Director of Instrumental Activities Ronald Feldman on cello and Stevenson on piano. Entitled “paisaje con dos tumbas y un perro asirio” (“Landscape with two tombs and an Assyrian dog”), the disjointed and jarring music reflected the dramatic lyrics of the poem by Federico Garcia Lorca that it was based on. It was as if the words of the poem – “Friend, wake up, the mountains still aren’t breathing and the grass of my heart is elsewhere” – were being literally invoked by the dark drama that the sound was creating. Standing out as particularly fantastic was Truex on tenor.
After a short intermission, the audience returned for the final featured composer, Maurice Ravel. Stevenson, who again played piano with Artist in Residence and Concertmaster of the Berkshire Symphony Joanna Kurkowicz on violin and Feldman on cello, announced Ravel, noting that his music included “Basque color.” Composed of four unique parts, Ravel’s work began with Modere. This piece was both sad and retrospective, utilizing the violin and cello to embody both of these characteristics. It was if Ravel was attempting to write the music of memory. Pantoum: Assez vif was second and was much more alive than its predecessor, keeping a brisk pace and sounding at times almost chaotic. Passcaille: Tres large followed, with the low somber cello setting the tone for the entire piece. Last was Final: Anime, and while it began with a hopeful sound it ended with the sense of panic.
The performances were highly enjoyable and praiseworthy despite being rather sad and emotional. The composers and artists who were a part of “Spanish Echoes” spanned across centuries to create this mix of tragic and cathartic music, and it made for incredible listening.
Additional reporting by Frank Pagliaro, staff writer.