Orientation Recital Introduces Class of 2017 to Oberlin’s Musical Tradition

Nicole Gutman

On the first day of orientation on Aug. 27, the Conservatory presented a recital to introduce first-years and their parents to Oberlin’s musical tradition. Before the concert started, Acting Dean of the Conservatory Andrea Kalyn introduced the recital’s performers, and she explained how the student performers are enrolled in the same institution as the new Conservatory students in the audience. All the performers were rising juniors and seniors, meaning that just a few years ago, they too were sweating in Finney Chapel listening to this same concert.

The first piece was Variétude Op. 28 by Einojuhani Rautavaara, a violin solo played by Conservatory junior Yuri Popowycz. It was an energetic piece with mostly angry and anxious expression that came from the dissonant intervals and crunchy tones Popowycz made on his violin, as well as his dynamic physical performance.

The next piece, Suite pour bassoon et piano by Alexandre Tansman, was performed by double-degree junior Benjamin Roidl-Ward on bassoon and Conservatory junior Joseph Williams on piano. The piece contained many sudden changes in the texture and relationship between the instruments. In one moment, there was a soft, almost flute-like timbre on the bassoon, immediately followed by a loud and chaotic piano passage. They covered a lot of stylistic ground with their changes of texture, harmony and their musical relationship to each other.

Conservatory senior Elly Toyoda and double-degree senior Jennifer Carpenter showed a great dynamic relationship in Duo for Violin and Cello Op. 7 by Zoltan Kodaly. The piece was structured so that both instruments played together the whole time, instead of having one instrument occasionally perform alone. Their dynamics, harmonies and articulation were so in sync that they often sounded almost like one instrument. This piece, unlike the obvious and sudden textural changes of the previous piece, employed more gradual shifts.

Paganiniana by Nathan Milstein was performed by Conservatory junior Jung Un Suh on the violin. Un Suh showed amazing technique in her playing. Paganiniana is a set of variations on a nautical-sounding theme composed by the violinist Nicolo Paganini. The variations utilized a variety of musical styles, including ornamentation, multiple voices and double stops. The piece ended with the same sea shanty theme introduced in the beginning.

Double-degree fifth-year Eric Fischer showed expression both in his musicality and in his stage presence when singing Odins Meeresritt Op. 118 by Carl Loewe. He was accompanied by Conservatory junior Farshad Tahvildar-Zadeh on the piano. Most of this song was sung in a recitative style, almost as if Fischer was talking to someone.

Next, Conservatory senior Re Zhang performed two movements from Etudes-tableaux Op. 33 by Sergei Rachmaninoff on piano. The first movement was very energetic and colorful. Zhang’s hands were all over the keyboard. The second movement was much slower; it started out with a few long block chords that were then gradually broke into many tremolos.

The performance concluded with two original jazz pieces. The first was “Mr. Task” by double-degree senior Stephen Becker, and the second was “Waiting On You” by Conservatory senior Jake Silverman. These pieces were performed by double-degree senior Carl Mitchell on saxophone, Conservatory juniors Lawrence Galloway and Zachary Jay Warren on trombones, Becker on guitar, Silverman on piano, double-degree senior Ethan Philion on bass, and Conservatory senior Miles Labat on drums. “Mr. Task” had a very strict tempo and a set form with everyone taking their turn to improvise the head. There was a huge drum solo to follow “Mr. Task.” “Waiting On You” followed shortly after that. The musicians often soloed simultaneously while maintaining far more flexibility of rhythm than in “Mr. Task.” It was a truly large contrast.

As a whole, the concert was a wonderful way to showcase the skills of Conservatory musicians to the incoming students. Everyone who performed represented Oberlin Conservatory’s strengths and stylistic variations.