Conservatory Students Display Talent, Creativity in Annual Honors Recital
It’s not easy to nab a spot in the Conservatory’s annual Danenberg Honors Recital. First, Conservatory faculty members recommend particular student musicians, and then those students must undergo a rigorous, competitive audition process before the best are selected to perform in the recital. The series is intended to acquaint the student body with the best of student performance, so the bar for performers is necessarily set extremely high. As a consequence of this selectivity, it was a coalition of the Conservatory’s finest musicians that captivated a nearly full Warner Concert Hall Saturday night for the second part of the yearly recital. The concert, free of charge, showcased student musicians of every division of the Conservatory from historical performance to jazz and highlighted works by a range of musicians from Liszt to Debussy.
Carl Abel’s Sonata in C Minor kicked off the recital, played by senior Joseph Monticello on traverso, a kind of flute, senior Alana Youssefian on baroque violin, master’s student Juliana Soltis on baroque cello and double-degree fifth-year Justin Murphy-Mancini on harpsichord. The energetic, thought-provoking performance beautifully articulated the delicate and intricate details of the piece. The next performance maintained the first’s exacting quality, a presentation of Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine Pour Piano arranged by David Walter for oboe, played by senior Virginia McDowell and staff accompanist Yuying Allie Su. Fast-running notes on the piano contrasted with soaring oboe melodies in a contemplative performance that resonated throughout the hall.
After the Ravel, the program shifted briefly to feature the strings with violin master’s student Mari-Liis Uibo’s solo performance of Heino Eller’s Fantasy for Violin. Uibo navigated Fantasy’s technical complexity with full force and intensity, her dexterity evident in the eeriness of the haunting piece. Wedge (for three flutes), a contemporary piece by Peter Kramer, OC ’14, followed, performed by seniors Hannah Hammel and Candy Chang and returning performer Joseph Monticello. The peculiar piece centered around unique, complex rhythms tossed back and forth between the musicians like knives. The trio displayed a strong musical unity and gave a fascinating performance.
A quick foray into vocal performance provided a pleasant break from the instrumental block. A duo of seniors, soprano Heidi Middendorf and pianist Joseph Williams, executed a beautiful and high-strung rendition of Quatres Chansons de Jeunesse by Claude Debussy. Middendorf’s voice resonated with poise and grandeur, excellently complemented by the sensitive and flowing voice of the piano. The duo’s chemistry was matched in the next performance, the second movement of Ernest Chausson’s Quartet for piano and strings in A Major presented by senior violinist Lyly Li, double-degree senior cellist Jennifer Carpenter, senior violist Jeff Girton and double-degree junior pianist Rachael Shapiro. The quartet moved as one in an alluring, elegant and heartbreaking performance that showcased each performer’s technical and musical ability without diminishing the unity of the whole.
In the last solo act of the night, master’s piano student Nicholas King masked the difficulty of Liszt’s Rigoletto Paraphrase with the ease of his execution, elevating the performance with glittery technique, crowd-pleasing flourishes and powerful virtuosity. The recital concluded with double-degree fifth-year Daniel Pappalardo’s original piece Over the Curve, performed by senior Shea Pierre on piano, Pappalardo on bass and senior Miles Labat on the drums. As the only student piece in an evening of older compositions, the trio closed the recital with particular freshness and charisma, cultivating a charming and uplifting atmosphere.
The Danenberg Honors Recital is named in memory of Emil Charles Danenberg, the eleventh president of the College, a dean of the Conservatory and a member of the Conservatory’s piano faculty for 30 years — a suitably important tribute for such an outstanding contributor to Oberlin. This year’s recital particularly exemplified the Conservatory’s talent with a full range of undeniable musical excellence. The road to performance in the Danenberg Recital may be grueling, but the payoff is well worth it.