Last Wednesday, the department of music hosted its first iteration of its weekly MIDWEEKMUSIC event. Featuring a number of students showcasing their talents alongside accompanying members of the faculty, this short but sweet performance consistently provides a welcome musical break in the midst of anyone’s busy work week.
Concert and Event Manager Jonathan Myers introduced the upcoming recital to the audience intimately seated onstage in Chapin, an arm’s length away from the musicians themselves. First in line was Joe Long ’13, who filled the room with his stunning rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor. He began with the slow, mournful melody of the “Adagio,” whose languorous tone was intermittently punctuated by frenetic spurts of energy communicating the deep sadness inherent to the piece. Long followed up with the “Presto”; this much more frantic piece was positively upbeat, with its fast, more uplifting sound produced by Long’s masterful, rapid strokes of the violin.
After stepping down, he was succeeded by Haley Pessin ’13, who took to the piano in order to perform Les Tendres Plaintes by 18th-century French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. This too was a melancholy piece, the heavy notes slowly dripping their way toward a bittersweet conclusion, with few flurries of vigor coming in to detract from the poignant mood.
The next three musicians sang to the accompaniment of the Library Head of Collection Management Robin Kibler on the piano. As Myers described, each piece was in its own way uniquely representative of its own century, which made for a uniquely entertaining sampling. The series began with tenor Sanghyun Im ’14, in a rendition of Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky’s adaptation of Eugene Onegin. More specifically, Im performed “Lensky’s Aria.” In this passage of Pushkin’s novel in verse, Lensky is off to duel Onegin, who has stolen the heart of his fiancée Olga. In this heartbreaking piece, Im gave justice to Lensky’s inner turmoil, his deep voice expressing the desperate feelings coursing through the man’s very being. Lensky knows he is doomed, and in the face of death, he reflects on his life, his upcoming demise and intense love for Olga. Im’s gravity, coupled with the somber melody of the piano, filled the audience with this tangible sense of looming despair.
A biblical scene followed, with the passage out of Samson titled “Total Eclipse.” In this piece from the beginning of the oratorio by George Frideric Handel, the previously supernaturally strong hero of the Israeli people is broken and in chains after having been blinded by his enemies the Philistines. Daniel Potter ’16, also a tenor, gave a truly masterful performance, his strong, deep voice booming out into space as he cried out in anguish. As Myers pointed out, this piece is accompanied only intermittently, and the piano’s silence gave Potter ample space to sing this pure despair. Robbed of his sight, he reminisces about embracing the rays of the sun; Potter went to great lengths to embody this suffering not only in his voice but with his entire presence on stage.
The best of this week’s recital was kept for last, as soprano Claire Leyden ’16 sang a passage from Act IV of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. As Susanna, Leyden teased her fiancé Figaro: She sings of his love for him, but since she knows he is hiding in the bushes, she makes him believe that she is in fact voicing her affection for the Count, whom she is about to meet. The scene is a cheeky, mischievous one, much different from the somber pieces that were sung previously. Not only did her clear, powerful voice ring with Susanna’s cheery tone, Leyden dove into the scene completely. Everything from her playful smile, to her excited gestures and eager delivery made the reality of Susanna’s flirtatious deception incredibly palpable to the audience, and made for a delightful conclusion to the recital.
This selection made for a very interesting overall recital, and provided a lovely break from the hectic pressures of a busy weekday. MIDWEEKMUSIC will continue to showcase a wide array of musical pieces throughout the rest of the semester, bringing in many students and faculty from the music department, with one iteration even taking place in Thompson Chapel to take advantage of the organ. All students should give this alternative stressbusting treat a try.