The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts December 14, 2007

CME Plays Successful Concert

The Oberlin Wind Ensemble and Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, were more than intriguing last Saturday, Dec. 8, performing a concert with works by Stephen Oliver, Alfred Schnittke, Gyorgy Ligeti and Hilda Pares.

Character-Pieces for Wind Octet was written in 1991, just a year before Oliver died of AIDS at a young age. Its movements are based on characters from Metastasio’s La Clemenza di Tito. Commissioned by the prestigious Glyndebourne Opera Festival, it represents different characters, which Mozart also used in his opera of the same name. Rome was characterized by shrill trills in the oboes and general chaotic motion. Servilia and Annio, the gentle lovers, conveyed melancholy, presented by the two French horn players, Conservatory junior Katie Swaydis and double-degree sophomore Matthew Berliner, and the double-degree junior bassoonist Joycelyn Eby and Conservatory sophomore bassoonist Josh Wang. When Rome returns before the end, Conservatory sophomore oboist Rachel Messing and double-degree sophomore oboist Megan Kyle appeared calmer, more contemplative. Tito featured the shrill sound of the oboes again, along with the prominent timbre of the French horns.

Alfred Schnittke’s Dialog (1965) for solo cello and seven instruments was, without a doubt, the star of the night. Cellist and Conservatory junior Steuart Pincombe’s insightful and deeply convincing interpretation was absolutely mesmerizing. His technical command over the instrument, coupled with his imagination and complete control over every note and phrase remained true revelations. Dripping with dynamic swells and an expressive climax, the music was fascinating to listen to, even with its frantic trills in the opening of the cello cadenza. Schnittke’s disturbed, anxious work also featured other demanding parts performed by Conservatory sophomore pianist Ran Duan, Conservatory sophomore clarinetist James Sandberg and Conservatory junior percussionist David Vohden.

After a short intermission, Ligeti’s Melodien (1971) proved to the audience that an innovative kind of melody can organically exist in new music. By juxtaposing relatively short legato or staccato lines in different orchestral instruments, which intertwine to create a new kind of melody, Ligeti was able to create an appealing, beautiful work. Double-degree fifth-year and violinist Jennifer Lang had a notable, short solo. Certain schmaltziness in the strings adding an interesting touch and the soft flageolets, which concluded the work, brought desired peace.

The CME concert concluded with Hilda Paredes’ Ah Paaxo’ob meaning “those who play music” in Mayan. Commissioned by the city of Frankfurt as part of the millennium program, “Frankfurt am Main,” the piece has been described by the composer as a “concerto for ensemble” with different instruments coming to the foreground and exhibiting characteristic solos. Ah Paaxo’ob gave the Oberlin Conservatory players a chance to show off their mastery in a group setting. Although Conservatory sophomore and timpanist John Langford didn’t have a chance to walk in to the front of the stage, his timpani rolls were prominent.

French horn player and Conservatory senior Scott Chowning and Conservatory junior percussionists Jennifer Torrence and Sindre Saetre, along with pianist junior Christina Giuca presented the first set of virtuosic solos. They were followed by an interesting clarinet duet featuring Conservatory sophomores Mark Cramer and Curt Miller in dialogue with the spiccato strings parts. Low woodwinds, represented by double-degree fifth-year Allison Pickett’s English horn, Miller’s bass clarinet (which strikingly resembled a saxophone in sound) and Artist Diploma student James Donahue’s alto flute added a mellow sound picture to the entertaining exhibition of non-mainstream, funny-shaped instruments.

Solos by Conservatory senior and bassoonist Thomas Schneider, double-degree fifth-year and trombonist Benjamin Zilber and double bassist and Conservatory senior Laura Dykes were professionally delivered. After a massive dynamic buildup, the confusion in the music thinned out and the ensemble gently finished the piece.

Conductor Timothy Weiss steadily guided the students through the forest of technically and musically challenging, but surprisingly enchanting music of the later 20th century.


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