Chamber Players

Williams Chamber Players
"Past and Present"

The Williams Chamber Players will perform on Wednesday, March 5, at 8 p.m. in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall on the Williams College Campus. There will also be a pre-concert talk at 7:15 p.m. in Presser Choral Hall. This free event is open to the public.

This evening of music features music by living composers Beth Denisch, Alexandros Kalorgeras and Williams faculty member Ileana Perez Velazquez as well as Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, one of the supreme masterpieces in the entire field of chamber music.

The program will begin with Perez-Velazquez’s piano piece Encantimiento, which you can hear on a new CD of her music, An Enchanted Being, just released in January on Albany records. Encantamiento (2003) for solo piano pulses with the essence of the music of Perez Velazquez’s youth—the traditional dances of her native Cuba. She states that the title of the piece “refers to a performer who has been enchanted by the power of the rhythmic gestures present in this piece”—and it is the vitality and power of the rhythmic gestures of the dances that Perez Velazquez uses to cast her spell. However, Encantamiento is not a pastiche of dance forms; it is not simply a re-worked dance movement. Perez Velazquez avoids establishing a predictable, regular—and unoriginal—beat that would be nothing more than yet one more classicized treatment of Latin American dances. Rather, clearly inspired by the “vitality” of the rhythmic gestures, she has here created a seductive, primal groove. Encantamiento teems with layers of rhythmic energy. Rhythmic motives are hocketed between the pianist’s hands; spiky syncopations, frequent meter changes, and clever silences continually subvert expectations; and gestures are gradually overlaid and overlapped, producing at times a dense rhythmic tapestry—all elements combining to create a swirling, powerful séance that resembles an aural synthesis of the aesthetics of Ives and traditional Latin American music. (In fact, Sally Pinkas—who commissioned Encantamiento—remarked before she presented the premiere performance at the Hopkins Center of Dartmouth College, May 2003: “Encantamiento poses a challenge to a classically-trained performer, as its rhythmic pulse is definitely not in the classical tradition; rather, it is an obstinate, laid-back beat which may co-exist with, but must never be threatened by, other cross-rhythms.”) By “honestly and viably incorporat[ing]”—not to mention entirely originally—her Cuban heritage into her rhythmic language, Perez Velazques enchants not only the performer, but the listener as well.

Denisch’s Night Forest Fantasia, for viola, percussion, and celeste, was inspired by the Hungarian verbunkos style of alternating slow and fast passages. Melodies, chords, and textural plateaus emerge using the gypsy scale, the whole tone scale, and their various combinations. Long arching rhapsodic melodies alternate with dance-like rhythmic passages. The celeste’s mysterious tone color and the many different percussion instruments combine with the virtuosic and expressive viola for a nocturnal sylvan journey of mystery and adventure.

Kalorgeras’ Music for Two Violas, written in 1997, is a set of four pieces of educational character for the high school student. The first one carries the direction “Joyful, with character”. Both violas exchange melodic and accompaniment roles. The second piece, Espressivo”, explores phrasing when fragments or even single notes of a melody pass from one instrument to another (klangfarbe melodie). The third is a fast, “Giacoso”, tuneful movement, while the fourth has an extended pizzicato section for both instruments. It concludes with recapitulation in a faster tempo of material from the opening piece.

The Williams Chamber Players is a resident chamber ensemble, founded at Williams College in 1999. It’s purpose is to present concerts for the college and community throughout the academic year. Antecedents of the Williams Chamber Players are The Williams Trio, founded in 1970, and the Group for 20th Century Music, founded in 1989. Repertoire for concerts is drawn from the standard chamber music repertoire with special attention to music of the 20th and 21st centuries, and to music by Williams composers. Musicians are normally drawn from the ranks of Artists-in-Residence, Studio Instructors, and other faculty, as well as occasional visiting artists. This concert features musicians Pola Baytelman, Scott Woolweaver, Ariel Rudiakov, Matthew Gold, Doris Stevenson, Joanna Kurkowicz, Joana Genova Rudiakov, Nathaniel Parke and Ronald Feldman.