Skaters cast a spell on ice

Fifteen student musicians gathered last Wednesday to compete in this year’s annual Berkshire Student Symphony Soloist Competition, presented by the College’s department of music. Each student performed for approximately 10 minutes, and many were accompanied by their instructors. The concert succeeded two pre-competition studio recitals held on Feb. 9 and Feb. 13 and served as a vehicle for contest winners to appear with the Berkshire Symphony in its concert on April 15 in Chapin Hall. Madura Watanagase ’12, Jingyi Liu ’14, Holly Fisher ’13 and Noah Fields ’11 were the night’s big winners.
Watanagase’s winning piece, by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns, was not only well-executed but also embellished by the pianist’s own motions. Seldom did she simply wait with still fingers for her cue from Studio Instructor Elizabeth Wright, her accompanist. Watanagase played out both the score’s intense and more demure natures with creative flourishes – a gracefully raised hand to match the music’s gentle qualities, an angular jolt when necessary, depending on the fluctuating mood of the piece. In fact, I was so inspired by her artistry that I found myself attempting to type my notes to her rhythms, which was of course to no avail.
Liu’s flute performance, a piece by Aram Khachaturian, was equally entertaining and mystifying. The gentle repetition within her playful, pastoral piece was calming and pleasing, but nonetheless indicative of a riddle: She continued to repeat to us the clue, accompanied by Music Lab Instructor Ed Lawrence on the piano, but was unable to provide an answer, and this I found simultaneously enthralling and unsettling. In fact, after so much repetition, her notes suddenly took on a melancholy tone, as if she had been telling the riddle for ages and yet still nobody understood. Perhaps this was the root cause of the goosebumps on my arms after Liu’s final note.
As with Watanagase, Fisher adeptly personified varying emotions within her piece, portraying sadness and forlornness just as handily as she imbued her performance with excitement or resolution. Executing great control of her vocal chords without sacrificing energy, enthusiasm or power during the Mozart opera, her soprano voice rang out in Brooks-Rogers with precision and purpose in every note. A student of Studio Instructor Marlene Walt, Fisher certainly made her instructor proud.
The antepenultimate soloist to perform, Fields was certainly worth the wait. A student of Artist Associate Scott Woolweaver, he delivered an emotional Hindemith score on the viola. Fields perfectly captured the spirit of his Trauermusik (Music of Mourning) piece. With each pause, the audience sat somewhat stunned, hanging on each resonant note and refusing to move, even when it filled the air at last. Then when the next note didn’t follow, Fields played the audience’s expectation as skillfully as he mastered his instrument throughout the performance: He paused, allowing the audience to absorb the sincerity of the just-transpired tune, then waited several solemn-faced seconds before taking his bow.
Other student performers in the competition included Christine Bowman ’11 on the piano; Andrew Liu ’11 on the piano; Alice Sady ’13 on the piano; Annie Jeong ’14 on the flute; Jacob Walls ’11 on the trumpet; Chaz Lee ’11 singing bass-baritone; Timothy Lengel ’11 singing bass; Leo Brown ’11 on the violin; Matt Crimp ’12 on the violin; Stephanie Jensen ’12 on the violin and Casey Jones ’13 on the violin.

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