BC’s Chamber Music Society Cast a Classical Spell on Audiences

A half an hour before the show was set to start, the doors of Gasson 100 were shut—but the classical music pouring out from within was too moving to ignore. Boston College’s Chamber Music Society, dedicated to revitalizing classical music, was warming up for its first concert of the semester.

Audience members awaiting their seats milled around outside, sneaking peeks on their tiptoes to see the society’s ensembles through the tall, regal doors. The ethereal sounds seemed to echo and float through Gasson’s historic common area—the notes ricocheting and winding around the marble statues and murals.

Finally, the doors swung open and those waiting were welcomed into the madness behind the music. Musicians shifted from corner to corner and quickly tested their instruments to ensure their sound and capability. The organized chaos was almost surprising in comparison with the calming music coming from each player.

As the disorder dissipated, Sandra Hebert, assistant professor of the practice in music department and director of the Chamber Music Society, took the mic excitedly and began the evening’s introductions. The night’s concert would be a multi movement performance consisting of three separate ensembles playing the stylings of Mozart, D. Shostakovich, and Louise Farrenc—each to be marveled at individually, but also altogether as a seamless collection.

Without further ado, pianists Gwyneth Miner, MCAS ’19, and Vicky Zhang, MCAS ’18, sat down before their pianos and began with “Allegro con spirito” from Sonata in D major, K. 448 by Mozart. The spritely tune seemed to spring from the keys. Their fingers flitted quickly to and fro, creating a playful arrangement. The piece continually built in suspense and speed, bringing to mind a mischievous cartoon chase scene.

Rather than stealing the light from one another, each pianist illuminated the other and they played as one. They both balanced each other and acted as counterparts. The juxtaposed pattern of fun and frantic fluctuated over and over until the second part of the song, “Andante,” began. The calmer, more serene rhythm provided a more elegant sound. The speed and tone shifts were present but less intense and varied.

This middle piece was a smooth transition to the final song, “Molto Allegro.” Similar to “Allegro con spirito,” Miner and Zhang’s fingers were in a mad dash to go from one key to another, escalating until the music devolved into an milder, more emotional tone. These shifts in sound were never reflected in the pianists’ faces. Like the ornamental, stone-faced carvings that hung above them, Miner and Zhang’s expressions remained static—letting the music they played convey all the emotion. Despite this lack of emotion, the final song ended as a triumphant anthem that closed in celebration.

A brief intermission then ushered in the next ensemble, a trio comprised of two cellists, Monica Grady, MCAS ’17, and Christian Hyon, MCAS ’17, along with a faculty pianist, Junko Fujiwara. The group performed D. Shostakovich’s songs “Prelude,” “Waltz,” “Gavotte,” and “Elegy.” Each song’s distinct personality furthered the hauntingly beautiful narrative.

“Prelude” began as a mellow, slow, and touching piece. Fujiwara’s gracefully intricate finger playing supported Grady and Hyon’s impressive bow techniques so that there seemed to be no difference between each instrument—just one, sonorous sound. The sense of longing that the piece evoked was soon gone as they began “Waltz,” a much more lighthearted piece. “Gavotte” emphasized this tone as well with a vibrant rhythm that had each musician crafting jumpy and joyful notes. The final song, “Elegy,” was clearly a sorrowful one. The bittersweet tune allowed for somber reflection as their movement came to a close.

The last movement, Trio in E minor, op. 45 by Louise Farrenc, was performed by another trio of musicians—flutist Isabelle Pazar, MCAS ’18; cellist Michael Oh, MCAS ’19; and pianist Emmy Ye, MCAS ’18. The introductory song, “Allegro deciso,” embodied a mix of the rhythms we had had interspersed throughout the night—a panicked tone that turned into a frolicking beat that seemed to bounce from note to note. “Andante,” reprising its meaning and role from Mozart’s movement, began peaceful and grew into quiet strength and power. This subtle beauty was startlingly contrasted with the beginning of the next piece, “Vivace.” The frighteningly fast-paced and erratic introduction prompted a lively rhythm that woke up those in the audience that may have drifted off during the previous hypnotic performance.

The passion among the players was easily visible during the riveting, “Vivace.” Oh smiled in admiration at the talent surrounding him as he powerfully maneuvered his bow. Pazar and Ye similarly looked around as soon as they could catch their breath. Like a domino effect, each musician played a solo one after another in a build of intensity. This energy carried into the final song of the movement and evening, “Presto.” The trio demonstrated their highest level of skill in this piece, using tones and rhythms that all seemed to blend into one another and seamlessly convey juxtaposed emotions—depth and lightheartedness, power and restraint. The ensemble closed the show in an exhibition of high tempo and mastery, bringing the audience to their feet in applause.

In the wake of the show, the music still seemed to linger throughout the room and into the common area. The impression of the brilliantly full and clear music was imprinted on the atmosphere—a sense of awe at the revitalization of centuries old compositions. The audience was transported back in time and given a grasp of nature they didn’t have before. This is the gift of classical music that the BC Chamber Music Society delivers at its concerts: transcendence.

Featured Image By Associated Press

About Veronica Gordo 25 Articles
Veronica Gordo is the associate arts editor for The Heights. She's a Yeezus fan, an avocado toast enthusiast, and a lover of all things Stella McCartney. You can follow her on twitter @vero_lena.