Conservatory Musicians Shine in Danenberg Recital Series


Courtesy of Yevhen Gulenko

A select handful of top Conservatory students perform at the Danenberg Honors recital. The annual concert took place at Warner Concert Hall this past weekend.

Colin Roshak, Staff Writer

Some of the Conservatory’s most accomplished performers treated audience members to masterworks of the Western canon juxtaposed with bold contemporary compositions at the Danenberg Recital this past weekend. The recital exhibited the Conservatory’s breadth, including everything from atmospheric noise by a TIMARA major to a classical pianist’s expert rendition of a Romantic piece by Frédéric Chopin.

The annual concert began with a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fugue in E-flat Major. Conservatory junior and Organ Performance major Matthew Buller delivered a calculated and precise rendition of the familiar fugue. Buller kept each voice in the texture very distinct and used minimal rubato. Despite the piece’s abrupt mood changes, Buller’s performance was consistently energetic and well-executed from the introduction of the fugue’s first subject to its triumphant final chord.

Following Buller’s rousing introduction came a quartet by Bach contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann. The musicians’ choice to play period instruments imbued their performance with authenticity. The piece’s first movement contained haunting melodies paired with moments of contrapuntal jubilance. The second movement emphasized virtuosity with fast descending runs traded off between the voices. The ensemble handled the especially delicate third movement with the utmost care and skill. Despite minor intonation issues, partly due to the use of period instruments and techniques, the ensemble played each movement with unwavering balance and musical intent. Cellist Jennifer Carpenter, a double-degree fifth-year, especially distinguished herself by providing a tasteful bass foundation for the higher voice’s exchanging melodies.

Third on the program came a suite for solo violin composed by Conservatory senior and cellist Joshua Morris. Conservatory junior Kah Yan Lee rendered technically difficult passages with flawless intonation and remarkable virtuosity. The well-constructed piece offered two contrasting moods — one flashy and vulgar, the other more thoughtful and introspective. The first mood had brash, high-reaching runs, while the second oozed with melancholy. Lee maturely maneuvered through the changing moods of the piece with elegance, not once losing the attention of the audience.

After Lee’s stunning performance came another soloist, this time at the piano. Conservatory senior Farshad Zadeh took the stage and gave a magnificent performance of the first movement of Rachmaninoff ’s second piano sonata. Zadeh made easy work of the technically barbarous sonata. The well-paced performance left plenty of room for the audience to breathe and absorb the multitude of musical ideas that Zadeh had to offer.


The piece changed character dramatically as Zadeh balanced high, virtuosic runs delicately with powerful, low-pitched chords. From the dramatic opening to the introspective end of the movement, Zadeh delivered a memorable and impressive performance. Next, Oberlin’s own Pierrot Sextet gave a top-notch performance of the legendary Pierre Boulez’s Dérive I. The piece swelled with great enthusiasm and harmonic complexity. Each part thickened the texture, leading to a dramatic climax. At some points, the piano overpowered certain voices in the texture, but despite these minor balance concerns, the performance was excellent, and the ensemble paid great attention to dynamic contrast and intonation.

The next piece was written for and performed on electronics by Conservatory junior Mitchell Herrmann. With the help of a large array of electronic equipment in the center of Warner Hall, as well as speakers and amplifiers strategically placed around the room, Herrmann took the audience deep into the unknown, establishing a heavy atmosphere. A variety of strange noises filled the hall. The piece was a dramatic departure from the rest of the program and provided a distinctly modern moment.


For the concert’s penultimate piece, the Neo Winds ensemble performed a quintet by Boston-based composer John Harbison with excellent communication, intonation and interpretation. The beginning of the piece featured incredibly high-pitched horns. As the piece continued to develop, each instrument took on a character of its own. The horns were brash, the clarinet more perky, the oboe enticing, the bassoon plodding and the flute singing above all of them. With subtle gestures and eye contact, the quintet played with flawless synchronization. The piece ended in the extreme registers of each instrument with a shimmering final chord.


The final piece on the program was as brilliantly performed as the rest of the concert. Sophomore pianist Shiyu Yang gave an inspired performance of Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat Major. Yang’s technique was flawless, and he breathed great life into the entire performance of one of Chopin’s better-known pieces. As a whole, the Danenberg Recital succeeded in exposing audience members to music from a variety of styles and time periods. The performers displayed not only their high level of technical skill but also the breadth of their artistic interests.