Symphony impresses with modern music repetoire

The Berkshire Symphony played an updated program at the College last Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Myers
The Berkshire Symphony played an updated program at the College last Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Myers

Last Friday, the College’s cultural horizons were expanded yet again by a performance of the Berkshire Symphony, one of the best classical music ensembles not only in the region, but also in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, this past weekend, the symphony might have outdone itself, performing a repertoire whose difficulty was outmatched only by the virtuosity with which it was executed.

Indeed, no one has ever said that modern music is easy to comprehend or perform, with the works of Manuel de Falla, Eduardo Lao and Alberto Ginastera providing the standard to which the genre is held. And yet, these works made up the entire program of the symphony’s performance last Friday, featuring two selections from de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat, the entirety of Lalo’s “Cello Concerto in D Minor” and Ginastera’s “Variaciones Concertantes.” Indeed, even a relatively untrained listener could discern the complexity of the pieces the orchestra was playing – the mixture of dissonance, cacophony and melody that makes modern music so unique.

However, no musical challenge is worthwhile unless it is executed well. And here, the Orchestra was operating with particular force. Absolutely every note, every harmony, was articulated beautifully and meticulously, with an attention to detail that could only be matched by the best symphonies in the world.

In short, it was clear that conductor Ronald Feldman had a definitive vision for how he wanted the pieces presented, a vision that everyone in Chapin Hall gained access to on Friday night. Also of note was the performance of cellist Tavi Ungerleider, soloist in the Lalo Concerto and the clear musical star of the show. While his degrees from Columbia and Julliard may have set audience expectations for his performance high, Ungerleider had no problem surpassing them, providing a performance that was at once moving and intellectually exciting, both visceral and technically perfect. In short, the show was just another potent demonstration of the tremendous artistic and interpretative gifts of the members of our college community here in Williamstown and the residents of the surrounding area. Which is why, even though classical music may not be everyone’s particular cup of tea, the Berkshire Symphony is certainly worth a visit – a wonderful reminder not only of how pleasant an evening of culture can be, but of the sheer level of talentthat surrounds us here in the Berkshires every day.