Last Friday evening, artist-in-residence, Lecturer in Music and Berkshire Symphony Conductor Ronald Feldman, performed a diverse array of pieces at the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall. As usual, a packed crowd of students and locals attended the highly anticipated event. Amidst the familiar names of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Mendelssohn, on the program was the name of recent graduate Dan Kohane ’12. Having wowed the Williams community with the performance of one of his compositions at the Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition in 2012, Kohane was greeted by audience members eager to hear his next creation.
Feldman entitled the recital, “Conversations,” in order to highlight the many layers of dialogue occurring during the performance of each piece. In each of the pieces a different layer of dialogue was revealed. Feldman began the recital with a cello staple, Bach’s Suite No.1 in G major. As a piece unaccompanied by a piano, the Cello Suite allows the cellist to have full reign over phrasing and interpretation. Feldman took full advantages of these liberties and put his own twist to the classic piece. Beginning with the light and beautiful Prelude, Feldman took the audience on a moving journey of the six movements, playing with phrasing, tempo and mood to completely recreate the familiar piece.
Feldman moved from the Bach to 12 Variations in G on a Theme by Handel by Beethoven, inviting Piano Artist-in-Residence and longtime collaborator Doris Stevenson on stage with him. The two engaged in dialogue with each other, taking turns being the soloist and engaging in call-and-response exchanges. Beethoven’s recreation of a piece by the man he believed to be the best composer in the world, Handel, reveals a layer of dialogue between the two great composers. For the Bach and Beethoven pieces, Feldman decided to play on a four-month old cello made specifically after a 1690 Amati cello, supposedly the ideal cello for Bach and Beethoven.
Kohane’s piece followed that of Beethoven, providing an invigorating contrast to the classical composers. The piece invited violinist, Joel Pitchon, a professor of music at Smith, to the stage to form a piano trio. Kohane’s piece was both deeply technical and beautifully lyrical, alternating between intense rhythmic sections and spacious, expressive passages. The three performers engaged in deep conversation, constantly making eye contact to make sure that they were together. Their voices collided and unified during different parts of the piece. The darkly beautiful mood of the piece was exciting and moving, and Kohane received an enthusiastic response when the three completed their last chord.
Continuing on the romantic and slightly dark mood of Kohane’s piece, Feldman followed with a piece by famed French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy. The piece, Cello Sonata, focused on whole tones, tempo changes and effects such as harmonics and pizzicato, making for a deeply lyrical yet playful choice. Feldman and Stevenson worked seamlessly together, staying in constant communication throughout the piece. Stevenson’s first chords of the moderement anime brought an immediate sense of calm, and Feldman’s entrance took the audience to an otherworldly place. The lyrical, changing beauty of the first movement was followed by a contrasting second movement, which Feldman started with a dark pizzicato passage. The fantasque et leger was more avant-garde than its preceding movement, yet equally moving. The piece ended with a spirited and playful, Final, a fitting ending for the emotional journey the piece took the audience through.
After a short intermission, Feldman and Stevenson returned to the stage for Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, a spirited piece that featured an impressively technical piano part. Stevenson performed with a virtuosity that brought life and energy to the piece. She and Feldman once again proved to be an unbeatable team in their performance of the four movements, keeping the audience on its toes the entire time.
The recital’s focus on the theme of conversation brought an extremely multifaceted aspect to the performance, encouraging the audience to engage in conversation themselves with a complexity of music they might not have considered before. Feldman and Stevenson’s performance was seamless, making for an engaging and impressive recital.