Con Faculty Prove Their PhDs
By Matt Heck

Finney Chapel was almost completely empty and eerily quiet at 3:45 last Sunday. If sounds of the faculty performers warming up hadn’t leaked out of the lobby doors, few would have realized that there was a concert at all. The Oberlin Faculty Chamber Music Series concerts, while not well publicized or well-attended, are some of the most interesting, eclectic and exciting concerts Oberlin has to offer. Rarely do the Conservatory faculty have the opportunity to drop the obligations of being a professor and prepare music with friends in a non-competitive atmosphere. In fact, the camaraderie between performers and their students and faculty friends was heartwarming. People say that conservatories are cutthroat institutions, but Oberlin certainly is not.
Alla Aranovskaya started the program with a performance of Prokofiev’s “Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94.” Aranovskaya’s playing in the St. Petersburg quartet has been unpredictable during the last couple of years, both at their performances at Oberlin and at their residency at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Conn. While she plays some pieces with subtle and delicate phrasing that makes them speak, like one by Shostakovich, some of her performances lack in profundity. Her playing in this concert however was superb. Her intonation was very good and her tone was beautiful. Her phrasing was expressive and there was plenty of robust energy in her interpretation. Her physical movements didn’t obstruct her tone production as they sometimes do when she plays in the quartet and the piece was very carefully prepared. Whether the mics in front of the stage were set there to record her performance or not, you could tell that she had practiced quite a bit for this one.
Roger Chase, viola, and Richard Hawkins, clarinet, followed, bringing with them the quirky, relatively obscure “Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale for Clarinet and Viola” by Rebecca Clarke. The subtleties of their performance were endless. Every phrase was delicately formed, and intentionally and carefully played by these two masters. For many this was probably the first exposure to Clarke’s works, and it was a convincing one. Often the viola held chords underneath a clarinet melody, but Chase was a never a subordinate player. Even when the viola part was very simple, smaller inflections of dynamic and character supported Hawkins’s lines perfectly. This performance was truly the highlight of the concert.
Next, Lorraine Manz, mezzo-soprano, performed the Brahms “Two Songs For Mezzo-soprano, Viol, and Piano, Op. 91” with the help of Aleksey Koptev, viola, and James Howsmon, piano. The readings of these pieces were well done and fairly well balanced. Manz’s tone was full and deep and reflected the typical heavy Brahms sound well without drowning in it. Koptev was occasionally a little overbearing and not as accompanimental, but most of his playing was solid and supportive.
The concert came full circle with Aranovskaya and her Quartet playing the relatively light “Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34” with Richard Hawkins and Lydia Frumkin, piano. The performance was great even if the piece was just satisfactory. Hawkins’s melodies were clear and seamless and the ensemble supported his playing well. It was an effective finale and the audience responded well.
Rarely in the professional music world do situations like this occur, when truly inspiring musicians can come together of their own accord and collaborate to make great temporary ensembles, and play music that inspires them.


November 8
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