Faculty Up in Front: Members of the Music Department Take the Spotlight

With the wind howling and snow in full effect, last Sunday was definitely not one to be spent outdoors. It was relieving to defrost and thaw out in Graves during the Faculty Chamber Music Recital in the Timken Room. The recital featured PA faculty members Neil Fairbairn, playing the bassoon, Charlyn Bethel, on the oboe, and Christopher Walter and Guy Urban, tickling the ivories of the piano. The musicians commenced the recital by informing the audience that their performance was to be a “smorgasbord” of pieces, ranging from chamber music gems to more obscure pieces. This introduction proved to be true. The program was extremely diverse, with short, long, old and new pieces. The first of these was a brief movement from Willem Kennis’s “Divertimento in E for oboe and bassoon.” This terse piece was held together with several recurring themes and a bounciness that not only gave it an enjoyable continuity, but grasped the listeners attention. Next was one of the more contemporary composers of the program: Gerald Finzi. His “Interlude for oboe and piano,” originally written for string quartet and oboe, was played beautifully by Bethel and Urban. The piece itself had its different moods, especially within the piano parts, which swelled and died like waves on the ocean. The oboe took precedence in this song, sounding almost like an arrangement written for vocals rather than for the oboe. Fairbairn returned for the next piece from Johann Christian Fischer’s “Duet in G for oboe and bassoon.” Fairbairn’s introduction to his performance, describing Fischer as the “superstar oboist of his day,” really set the tone for the ensuing piece, which was brilliantly played by Bethel and Fairbairn. The musicians’ anecdotes proved to be very humorous, holding the recital together and creating an atmosphere that was entertaining and enjoyable for everyone who attended. Directly preceding the intermission were songs from William Hurlstone’s “Sonata in F for bassoon and piano.” The piece was challenging for Fairbairn, who was accompanied by Walter on piano, but he attacked it and came away with great applause at the end of four movements. The piece flowed very nicely, with Walter’s piano serving as a nice balance to Fairbairn’s strong and low bassoon. Following the brief interval between sets, Bethel and Fairbairn reunited to play “Three Little Pieces for oboe and bassoon” by Gordon Jacob. The title is no joke: at twenty-five seconds, the first movement was so short that Fairbairn remarked, “Make sure you don’t sneeze, you might miss it.” These three “little pieces” were very delightful, and a good way to start the second half of the recital once again invoking the audience and bringing energy and excitement to the post-intermission crowd. Nearing the end of this most entertaining performance, was a piece from François Joseph Garnier’s “Duo Concertant for oboe and bassoon.” The song, in allegro moderato, had a very classical sound, and was extremely entertaining, with the oboe and bassoon proving to be good counter-parts balancing one another out quite nicely. Bethel remarked before the piece that she uses Garnier in her teaching because he wrote his duets so that one must listen to the other player while playing one’s own part — a good lesson for any musician. Finally, the recital concluded with pieces from Francis Poulenc’s “Trio for piano, oboe, and bassoon.” It was a wonderful way to bring the recital full-circle, with all three PA musicians performing at their best. Anyone who attended The Faculty Chamber Music Recital would agree it was a Sunday well spent. The vigilance of these musicians was highly; they engaged the audience with tremendous ease. Both Fairbairn and Bethel’s anecdotes were amusing and historically factual, which complemented their playing nicely. Walter and Urban performed beautifully on piano, making the afternoon a nice respite from the harsh outdoors.