Artist Recital Series to Feature Yo-Yo Ma, Other Talents

Daniel Hautzinger , Staff Writer

The next nine months have been crammed with over 500 concerts performed by students, faculty, alumni and guest artists, spanning classical, jazz, electronic, rock and world music. The 2013-2014 Artist Recital Series is a rare opportunity to see some of the world’s most well-known performers demonstrating their craft. To aid in planning a year of concerts, here are some of the highlights.

The Series kicks off on Nov. 5 with an all-Oberlin program, based around a new recording titled Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces by Assistant Professor of Harp Yolanda Kondonassis. The concert features performers from different departments at Oberlin. Fenelon B. Rice, Associate Professor of Clarinet Richard Hawkins and Associate Professor of Flute Alexa Still join Kondonassis as representatives of the faculty. Soprano Ellie Dehn, OC ’02, pianist Spencer Myer, OC ’00, and violist Liz Freivogel, OC ’00 — all three of whom also made appearances in the 2012-2013 concert series, are playing with Oberlin’s quartet-in-residence, the Jupiter String Quartet. Last year, Ms. Dehn excelled as a soloist in Mozart’s Great Mass with the Oberlin Musical Union, Mr. Myer gave a solo recital, and the Jupiter Quartet put on three recitals — their performance of Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 was a highlight of the season. A single concert with all of these forces marshaled together should be exceptional.

Nov. 20 brings the first non-Oberlin artists. Pianist Kathryn Stott joins frequent collaborator Yo-Yo Ma, the musically versatile cellist. Though their program has yet to be announced, chances are high that some Latin American music will be performed. Ma and Stott, who first played together in 1985, have received Grammys for their 1997 album Soul of the Tango, which featured the music of Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla, and for the 2003 recording Obrigado Brazil.

The Cleveland Orchestra makes the short trek to Oberlin on Dec. 3, led by Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony, with pianist and rising star David Fray.

More Oberlin alumni return for the second semester on Feb. 9. Imani Winds, featuring Toyin Spellman-Diaz, OC ’94, on oboe and Monica Ellis, OC ’95, on bassoon, will give a recital with acclaimed pianist and teacher Gilbert Kalish. Imani Winds, who have played with legendary jazz musician Wayne Shorter in addition to premiering Middle-Eastern-tinged works by composer Mohammed Fairouz, share with Kalish an inventive, progressive approach to classical music. The collaboration is sure to spawn an intriguing program.

The youngest performer of the Series arrives March 1. 18-year-old pianist George Li won Oberlin’s inaugural Cooper International Competition in 2010 and performed with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall as a result.  Now he returns to Oberlin with a solo recital.

The vivacious mezzo-soprano Susan Graham brings her voice and wit to Oberlin on April 6. Expect French song and contemporary American works, both of which are dear to Graham. And look forward to humor and verve; in her recent tour with Renée Fleming, Graham slunk onto stage for an encore, a cigarette dangling from her lips, and sat down at the piano to play and sing Edith Piaf.

The season closes with the Takács Quartet on April 13, playing Webern and Beethoven. Coming only a week after Susan Graham, the heftiness of this all-German program will be an interesting contrast to Graham’s potential levity.

In addition to these concerts, there are two other large, non-classical concerts associated with the Artist Recital Series. On March 9, so-called “progressive bluegrass” band the Punch Brothers will hold a barnstorming performance and improvise through dense compositions with virtuosic panache. Featuring Chris Eldridge, OC ’04, on guitar, the band performed in Oberlin last year as well, and will this year take up the mantle of artists-in-residence to hold master classes.

Finally, on April 2, pianist Chick Corea and banjo player Béla Fleck join forces for a jazz jam session. Like Ma and Stott, the two collaborate frequently and received a Grammy in 2007 for their album The Enchantment.

Such is the eclectic, inventive, genre-pushing lineup for the 2013-2014 Oberlin Artist Recital Series. And, of course, there are still some 495 other concerts to attend.