Williams Chamber Players: The insidious popular vein in chamber music

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Time: 
09/08/2012 - 8:00pm

Program

Themed “The insidious popular vein in chamber music” and featuring works of Shostakovich, Poulenc, Cage, Strauss, and Lehár, the ensemble takes a whirlwind tour of exciting chamber repertoire of the last century. This music offers clues into what these composers, had they employed such gadgets, might have uploaded to their iPods. The music that surrounded them seeped irresistibly into their work.

Oboist Carl Jenkins, bassoonist Stephen Walt, and pianist Elizabeth Wright take to the stage performing the Poulenc Trio. Francis Poulenc, who died in 1963, was original and modern, setting his melodies against traditional harmonic backgrounds. The trio showcases Poulenc’s vibrant style and light touch, brimming with the enthusiasm of the Parisian music halls of the time.

This year John Cage, an icon of American and avant-garde music, stands in the spotlight. On this centenary of his birth, and twenty years after his death, Cage’s work has enjoyed renewed attention. Seventy years after premiering at Bennington College, Credo in Us is performed again by Matthew Gold and Casey McLellan ‘14, percussion; Paul de Jong, radio/phonograph; and Elizabeth Wright, piano. Cage’s musical collage-making presents the influences of his musical world without ambiguity. What others only subtly suggest, Cage announces.

Pianist Doris Stevenson joins with members of the vocal faculty at Williams, Keith Kibler and Erin Nafzinger, performing songs from old Vienna. Vilia from Lehár’s Merry Widow and selections from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss are among the selections.      

Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 by Dmitri Shostakovich is one of the composer’s most celebrated works and demonstrates his mastery of traditional form, married with an unmistakable individuality and modernist sensibility. Despite this modernism, or perhaps because of it, this quintet employs themes reminiscent of the popular Russian music of the day.

Of special interest to the community audience, composer Stephen Dankner premieres a work in collaboration with Artist Associate in Trumpet, Nathan Botts. The piece is written for Irwin Shainman, who passed away on July 8, 2012. A musician and teacher who enjoyed the status of a cultural icon in the Williams community, Mr. Shainman was a beloved faculty member (1948-1991), who taught generations of Williams students. He served as conductor of the budding Berkshire Symphony and private trumpet teacher and professor. A virtuoso trumpeter, he won the Premiere Prix in trumpet performance at the Paris Conservatory in 1950. Mr. Dankner’s piece is titled “Remembering Irwin… for solo trumpet.”

The Williams Chamber Players is a resident performance faculty chamber music ensemble at Williams. The ensemble offers performers and audiences the opportunity to explore chamber music over a range of periods and styles. Distinguished performance faculty share the joy of making music together to the delight of student and community audiences.

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