On Friday night Doris Stevenson, Lyell B. Clay artist in residence, performed a number of contemporary classical piano pieces in Brooks-Rogers Auditorium. Members of the College and the Williamstown community came out that night to show their support of Stevenson and her expertise on the ivories.
In contrast to the sheer-sleeved dress and soft expression on her promotional poster, she walked onto the stage with a dark tailcoat and straight face. Without blinking, she started the night with the fast-paced and almost eerie set by Allen Shawn entitled Childhood Series. The piece consists of five parts, “Night,” “Father’s Lullaby,” “Teasing,” “A Dead Hamster” and “Piano Practice.”
After Childhood Series, Stevenson set up a metronome for her second performance, MM=51. Composed by Mauricio Kagel, this piece etched horror movie scenes in the audience’s imaginations. With the occasional cackles and utterances from Stevenson, this section of the recital left a lingering uneasy feeling – a sensation that was only exacerbated by the monotonous metronome.
As noted in the program, “two distinct Berkshire composers” created the last two pieces of the recital. David Kechley, one of the two composers, was present in the audience on Friday and spoke briefly about his work, Pogled u Budućnost/Pogled u Prošlost: Seven Piano Pieces from Sarajevo, which he composed for Stevenson specifically. In translation, the title becomes Looking Forward/Looking Backward. Kechley wrote the piece during his stay in Saravejo, Bosnia-Herzegovina last summer. The title refers to the current internal conflict of a Bosnian city wanting to move forward to the 21st century, but tied back by its disasters at the end of the 20th century.
The seven pieces were “Prologue,” “Mirrors Revisited,” “Beyond the Gate,” “Quiet and Still,” “Fast and Loud,” “Narrow Lines and Dramatic Sequences” and “Epilogue.”
“As the title indicates, each piece takes the original idea in a different direction and is quite independent of the work from which it sprang,” Kechley said.
Finally, after the intermission, Stevenson concluded the night with the work of the second Berkshire composer, Frederic Rzewski. Stevenson performed his 24-minute composition, “De Profundis.” Though not divided into a series of enigmatically titled pieces, Stevenson still found a way to heighten the drama through the end of her concert: She recited excerpts of Oscar Wilde’s letter from prison to Lord Alfred Douglas as a part of the theatrical piece.
The standing ovation at the end was a true reflection of the show. The recital surpassed any expectations and made unorthodox piano music accessible and fun. The highlights of the show were the two dramatic pieces at the end, which garnered many laughs, goosebumps and applauses.