Alto Flutist, Violinist Join Guitar Ensemble for Diverse Chamber Concert

Colin Roshak, Staff Writer

The Oberlin Guitar Ensemble, contrary to what its name implies, does not exclusively consist of guitarists. The ensemble’s concert, which took place Tuesday night and was directed by Stephen Aron, featured a collection of small chamber groups including flute and violin.The groups performed a diverse array of chamber music pieces for a small, intimate audience in Kulas Recital Hall.

After nervously thanking the audience for attending, a guitar quartet comprising double-degree fifth-year Philip Lutz, double-degree sophomore Rebecca Klein, Conservatory first-year Brian King and College senior Zhouru Lin opened the concert with two short waltzes in a Venezuelan style by Gilbert Biberian. The music began with a slow drone in the low register of the guitar created by repeatedly plucking a single note. The piece featured dissonant harmonies combined with quick, fiery Latin rhythms. The quartet struggled with intonation and rhythmic coordination early in the performance, but as the music progressed, the students began to adjust to one another’s playing. By the end of the waltz, the ensemble had improved dramatically.

The group’s second piece was far livelier and more melodic than the first, and their performance was markedly more confident. Their intonation and accuracy were spot on, and the quartet’s energy and physical cues all contributed to a successful rendition of the music.

The next ensemble, comprising Klein and doubledegree junior violinist Greg Gennaro, performed three short works by Émile Desportes. The pair performed Desportes’s music with dazzling virtuosity, rendering technically complex passages and melodies in the extreme upper ranges of their instruments with comfortable ease. Klein and Gennaro played with impeccable intonation, with Klein accompanying Gennaro’s smooth, almost liquid violin melodies with a delicately nuanced sensitivity.

A guitar trio followed the duo to play a pair of Spanish dances by Manuel de Falla. Conservatory senior Jacob Blizard and Conservatory juniors Stephen Fazio and Leonard Ranallo passed intricate solo lines back and forth with clean technical mastery. The group performed with precise intonation and rhythm and maintained a confident, calm stage presence throughout its recital. The strident bravura of de Falla’s music provied an engaging contrast to the gentler sonority of the guitar and violin duo.

Next, double-degree fifth-year Crispin Swank bowed to acknowledge the audience before sitting to accompany himself while singing a short trio of songs. Although Swank appeared nervous at first, he performed with conviction. He began with a simple strophic song by baroque composer John Dowland before moving on to two works by 20th-century composer Benjamin Britten. The Dowland allowed Swank to utilize the clear purity of his voice, while the Britten featured his technical abilities as a guitarist. Swank appeared to perform from memory, barely glancing at his music and engaging the audience with deliberate eye contact.

After Swank’s stirring performance, the guitar trio returned to deliver a two-movement work titled “Chimera” by Stephen Aron, which contained elements of jazz as well as some Latin influences. The piece seemed more devoted to dissonant harmonic progressions than a discernable melody.

Flautist and double-degree junior Erica Zheng and guitarist and Conservatory senior Max Lyman performed the final piece of the concert, “Toward the Sea” by Toru Takemitsu. The composer scored the music for alto flute, one of the less popular lower-pitched members of the flute family. In contrast to the rest of the music, Lyman performed the melodic material while Zheng created a bass line. Each of the three movements contained a bevy of extended techniques for the flute; Takemitsu utilized flutter tonguing and semi-tones in the piece to capture the sounds of the sea. Unfortunately, the music failed to capture the audience’s attention. Each movement lacked distinction, blurring into the next before the final movement ended with a quiet solemnity. The concert could have benefited from a more emphatic ending to alert listeners to the fact that the piece was over instead of fading slowly into silence.