Alumni Compositions Featured in First Sinfonietta Concert

Gabriel Kanengiser

The Oberlin Sinfonietta, conduct- ed by Timothy Weiss, gave its first performance of the year on Tuesday, Sept. 24, presenting a contemporary program with works by Stephen Hartke, Steven Stucky, Pierre Jalbert, OC ’89, and Richard Danielpour, OC ’78. The concert program painted a comforting dreamscape. Each work on the program was distinguished by its unique sonic qualities, yet together they inhabited a world that could only be accessed through these specific works.

The first piece of the evening, Gradus, was composed in 1999 and was as comforting as it was ominous. The arrangement for bass clarinet, violin, cello, bass, vibraphone and piano created a rich and dense sound. While the thickness  of the deep tones made for some overwhelming moments, the over all effect was never negative. In fact, these moments intrigued, and their gravity captured the listener.

The piece Partita-Pastorale, After JSB by Steven Stucky was described by the composer as “a kind of day dream about Bach.” It was as if transcribed Bach melodies had been recalled and interrupted by brief tangential daydreams veering from the subject at hand, yet never quite leaving. Stucky continued, “the interruptions are themselves remembered keyboard bits by Bach,” and thus, the daydream never departed from Bach, as differing textures of memory presented his work to the audience.

A particularly exciting aspect of  the Sinfonietta performance was the presence of composer Jalbert, whose piece Tran- scendental Windows depicts Tiffany windows seen from different angles. The product of the musical interpretation was, like many other works on the program, exquisitely moving. An especially strik ing attribute was the emotion encapsulated by Leo Zipo ryn, who played both English horn and oboe on this specific piece. The sonic qualities of the English horn, as well as the sounds of the other musicians, floated out onto the audience and painted the stained blend of vibrant colors and dreamscape Jalbert created. At the conclusion of the piece, Jalbert took to the stage and received much-deserved applause from both the audi- ence and the performers.

The program before in- termission focused on pieces that evoked dream-like im- agery. Richard Danielpour’s adaptation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, Book 1 featured Assistant Professor of Singing Kendra Colton, OC ’83, and also presented the sonic qualities of a dream. Danielpour, OC ‘78, presented a slightly more ro- mantic composition, especial- ly in comparison to the others pieces. Colton’s round and gleaming voice soared within and throughout the ensemble, and the piece itself also had a worldly depth, rich language and polished lyrical melodies, which the instrumentalists and Colton explored to the delight of the audience.

One can only be excited to see where the Oberlin Sin- fonietta will venture in future concerts this semester. To see such a delightful program featuring the music of Oberlin alumni, and all from contemporary composers, is an experience to be relished. The Oberlin Sinfonietta’s next performance will take place on Nov. 7 in Warner Concert Hall, with a program featur- ing Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony, as well as Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged by Julian Yu.