Bach at New Year’s
There was a new perspective in the New Year’s Day Berkshire Bach concert this year—adventurous programming, music of more than one composer, and first-rate players both seasoned and young. The new director of the ensemble for the New Year’s program, violinist Eugene Drucker, gave us a banquet. The second half presented many different kinds of not only expert playing, but wonderful variety. The culmination of the adventure was an excellent performance of J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite no. 1, played somehow both powerfully and gently. Stephen Walt’s bassoon solo was a virtuoso romp. The instrumentalists played cleanly and directly, not quite the early music style, nor the grand orchestra style, but something in-between, which really communicated in the wonderful acoustic of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was wonderful to see and hear several young virtuosos, playing marvelously along-side the older players. The audience filled the hall, and this on a day which barely reached 10 degrees! I look forward to hearing next year’s concert under Maestro Drucker’s leadership.
Many remarkable performances, a few have stayed in my ear. Principally among them are the beautiful singing of Dominique Labelle with Aston Magna. This marvelous artist has an inborn purity to her singing which requires no special treatment. She has a stillness, in her demeanor and singing, which is second to none. I would happily hear her sing every day.
Next, one of my Williams seniors, Madeline Seidman, with the help of her assistant Harriet Weldon, managed to put up a brilliant production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, in a couple of weeks. After fishing around for an adequate space, and with little time left to rehearse, one of the best productions of a Sondheim musical I have seen, happened. The auditorium in the Clark Art Institute was filled to over-flowing. Several more performances could have been given if the space had been available. There were wonderful young singers in this production, among them Alessandra Edgar as the Witch, who gave a fully professional performance which lit up the stage. Nicole Jones as the Baker’s Wife had an almost magical comic in the way she delivered her lines, and sang beautifully when doing so. Madeline is a gentle director, almost whispering her admonitions, and boy did the actors ever listen to her.
Two of my students made me hear Mozart in a new way this year. Harold Theurer, a first rate singing actor, was chosen as one of the soloists for the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra’s spring concert. He gave us a performance of the Count’s aria in Le Nozze di Figaro with an energy that made you listen. This aria goes back and forth between false security and a very real terror. Harold sang every one of the switches and changes, commanding the stage. Equally important to me was a private moment when at the end of a lesson with Gwen Tunnicliffe, she sang Susanna’s aria from the last act of Le Nozze di Figaro. Her singing was one of those moments which had radiance. She got to the center of it. i could not talk when the aria finished. These two young artists are as valuable to me as any great singer might be. There are many others I could mention, but these are the ones closest to my heart.