On Friday night, Chapin echoed with the bewitching sounds of Rachmaninoff, Ibert, Dvorak, Beethoven and the premiere performance of Hamavdil, a composition by Dan Kohane ’12.
The first three pieces of this program were concertos performed by the winners of the annual Berkshire Student Symphony Soloist Competition held in February. This year, the winners were Daniel Schreiner ’14 on piano, Annie Jeong ’14 on flute and David Kealhofer ’13 on cello.
The haunting bell-like introduction of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff started off the program. Schreiner effortlessly played the turbulent, cascading arpeggios as the orchestra continued the development of the first theme. The second theme was marked by a beautiful shift into the key of E-flat major with the melody in the soloist part. Schreiner’s agile hands moved magically over the keys as the audience sat entranced. Barely any movement was heard within the hall during his performance as the complex piece spun elements of the themes into an electrifying climax. Rachmaninoff wrote this piece during the lowest point of his career, haunted by the scathing criticism and rejection of the premiere of his first symphony. During this dark time, he poured his multifaceted personality into his music, a fact reflected by the passionate, emotional melodies and dramatic contrasts of mood in this piece. Known to be one of the great pieces of the Western canon, Schreiner gave this powerful work a moving and talented rendition.
Jeong walked on to stage next. Her beautiful, pure sound floated over the crowd as the orchestra supported the melody through the unique combinations of new and old ideas embedded within this composition. A French composer in the early 20th century, Jacques Ibert combined difficult flute techniques with French textures to create a lively and light-hearted composition in Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. Jeong’s rendition of this piece was skillfully executed, making the two faster movements of the piece ripple with life, and the lyrical movement opened up her compelling emotional expression
Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor was the next piece on the program. Kealhofer is no stranger to this stage, as a second-time winner of the soloist competition. The Dvorak concerto is a large, romantic piece with three movements of 10-15 minutes. There is a lengthy orchestral introduction of the first two themes that are restated and then expanded by the soloist. To this end, Kealhofer’s cello sang into Chapin as his skill shone through the crystalline sound. The work is not a showpiece but rather maintains the integrity of the composition by integrating the soloist into the whole of the orchestra. However, the solo portion is demanding and builds the inevitable sense of forward movement that the composer was intending. The soloist and the orchestra pass the theme back and forth, leading to a fantastic thematic development.
In addition to these spectacular performances, the audience also witnessed the premiere of an original composition by Kohane, a music major at the College. Hamavdil was composed for Kohane’s senior honors thesis for the music department, combining Jewish influences from both the secular and sacred genres. “Throughout the piece, fragments of chant intertwine, conflict and harmonize with the distinctive feel and sonorities of klezmer music,” The program stated. A couple of amusing moments of the clarinet’s pitch bending even led to light chuckles within the audience. Members of the choir were included within this piece and their dramatic entrance led to a marked climax as they sang from the balconies on either side of Chapin stage, revealing an impressive and masterful composition by Kohane.
The last piece on the program was the well-known Fifth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. The inclusion of this piece in the program was fitting due to the masterful renditions that had come before it. Popular media has reproduced this masterpiece for years due to its unique and dramatic opening theme. At the time of its creation, Beethoven was already one of the most important composers in Europe, and this symphony has maintained his reputation of genius into the modern day. Last weekend, it cemented the end of a powerful performance by the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra with a grandiose gesture.