Archive » August 9, 2007
Music Academy Chamberfest
By Steven Libowitz
All summer long, the Music Academy of the West’s young artists have been performing in master classes and picnic concerts, competitions and special events. Meanwhile, the faculty instrumentalists have also concertized on a regular basis, playing chamber music programs every Tuesday at the Lobero Theatre. But, save for the rare fill-in date in one venue or another, never the ‘twain did meet.
Friday night, for the first time – and obviously last time – all season, that all changes, as the Academy presents its annual Chamberfest.
“The idea isn’t new for students and faculty to play together. Over the years it’s happened quite a bit at different points in the Academy’s history,” said pianist Jerome Lowenthal, who with 38 years experience has seen myriad changes in programming as the most senior member of the teaching faculty at the Academy. Lowenthal will play piano duets with two different students at Chamberfest, and said that students would frequently appear with their teachers in faculty concerts in years gone by, but that he didn’t think that was the best situation.
“It’s not because they don’t play as well as the faculty – sometimes they play even better,” he said. “But they don’t have the same experience, and we need to put these (Tuesdays@8) concerts together very quickly. So it makes sense to separate them and then have this one event where we mix.”
Oboist Ben Fox, who is pursuing a doctorate at Boston University and is completing his first summer studying at the Music Academy, said being chosen to participate is a real honor and opportunity.
“It’s a real chance to perform the solo role in something more high profile at the Lobero (rather than on campus),” said Fox, 27, who noted his only other opportunity to perform in public with faculty in his career has been sitting in with the faculty orchestra at another school. “This is amazing. I wish they would do more. But it’s also a lot of pressure.”
While Fox was selected by his teacher, Lowenthal merely arranged a group meeting and asked for volunteers to fill his two accompanist slots.
“My students, as are everybody’s, are all very good,” he explained. “I was pleased with who offered, but I don’t think I would have said no to anyone. The way I do it involved no preferential treatment for anybody. They’re all very accomplished.”
Fox, like all the students participating in Chamberfest, will play first chair, while the faculty member – in his case oboist Cynthia DeAlmeida – handles Oboe II for Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in C Minor. (Similarly student Min na Lee will perform first clarinet while teacher Fred Ormond plays second chair for the piece).
“That gives rise to a very different dynamic,” Fox said. “The teachers are sitting second, so they can’t function so much as a teacher, since we’re all supposed to be colleagues for this concert, even though we know that’s not actually the case. So they restrain themselves from offering too many critical comments. Also, a lot of the gesturing you’d do as a wind player, the moving (that cues the other players), they’ re also holding themselves back from that so that the students can do most of the leading of the ensemble as well.”
The repertoire include two arias by Bottesini (for soprano, double bass and piano); Stravinsky’s “Pastorale” (violin, oboe, English horn, clarinet and bassoon); Nielsen’s “Serenata in vano” (clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and double bass); Bolcom’s “Virtuosity Rag” (brass quintet); and the two Lowenthal piano pieces, Mozart’s Andante with Five Variations, K. 501 (with student Steven Mann), which opens the concert, and the Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud [who also served as MAW’s honorary director in the ‘40s-‘50s], which closes it.
(Chamberfest takes place at 8 pm Friday night at the Lobero Theatre. Tickets are $38. For information call 805-963-0761 or 969-8787.)
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