Daniel Lessner: Bach Goldberg Variations

Once again, the Williams Bösendorfer Recital program has given us the opportunity of hearing a gifted younger musician display his musicianship with the singular obstacles of a mismatched instrument in an unpleasant acoustic. A portable acoustical shell has been introduced to remedy Chapin’s muffled sound. I heard a favorable judgement of this innovation at the New England Baroque Orchestra concert, which I unfortunately missed, butit was of little help with a solo piano: the music, instead of sounding as if it were being played in another room with the door partially open, sounded as if it were being played in a tunnel, or perhaps a swimming pool. The Williams Bösendorfer has never been a credit to its justly famed manufacturer, partly, it could be, because of the Berkshire climate and partly because it is too much instrument for the hall. The instrument is extremely loud, and so was the pianist, painfully so, occasionally giving me the feeling of being in close quarters with a mad rhino.

A Musical Weekend at Williams, I: Berkshire Symphony Orchestra, Ronald Feldman, conductor

Williams has traditionally placed a high value on the arts without exactly pursuing the disciplines to the level of more specialized institutions, like Bard or Oberlin, except perhaps in the visual arts. The ‘62 Center has changed that in respect to theater, and the new facilities, as well as the distinguished faculty who have been hired to go with it, like Omar Sangare, the brilliant Polish playwright, poet, and actor, have attracted the sort of students who might otherwise have chosen Yale or Tisch. The Williams community, Berkshire residents, and whoever decides to make the trip, can expect great things in the future. Music, while very much a Cinderella in terms of physical plant, considering the problematic acoustics of Brooks-Rogers and Chapin Hall, is nonetheless richly endowed with talent of the first order, and many of these assets were much in evidence this past weekend in departmental chairman David Kechley (recently awarded an ASCAPlus Award as well as an Aaron Copland Award composer residency from Copland House), cellist-conductor Ronald Feldman, and, on Sunday, David Porter, Harry C. Payne Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts, who is as much a classicist as a musician.

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