Faculty Cello Recital: Spiritual Resonance

If only more students had similar thoughts about classical music, our Chapel could have been bustling with students listening to Müller-Szerawas’s cello reverberating off the walls. Think of the opportunity lost: where else can you hear a professional musician deliver a full-length recital for absolutely no charge? On iTunes—but even that will cost you 99 cents. For all its architectural beauty and acoustic flair, it is a shame that the Cochran Chapel remained nearly empty last Friday evening for Jan Müller-Szeraws’s Faculty Cello Recital. Of the total twenty-five audience members, there were three Phillips Academy students, two of whom were required to watch the recital for Music class, and myself, covering the recital for The Phillipian. Before beginning the concert, Müller-Szerawzs spoke briefly but eloquently about the pieces he would perform and what they meant to him. The first piece, “Flying” by Chao-Jan Chang, a young composer who attended the recital, offered modern, soaring, ethereal Asian tones. A rather eclectic piece, “Flying” had no distinguishable melody, but it was haunting and filled with lovely, carefully placed dissonance. Overall, the mood was decidedly melancholic, intensified by painfully expressive Asian slides that Müller-Szerawzs played with uncanny control and ease. The next piece was Benjamin Britten’s Third Suite for Cello Solo, Op, 87, a lengthy nine-movement suite written just for cello. The piece presented a wide variety of tempos and moods, from its fleeting staccato variations in Movement II to the much-desired melody that came forward toward the end of the suite in Movement IX. Müller-Szeraws employed an interesting strumming technique in Movement III, impressing the audience even more with his talent. The night’s final piece was Anusvara for Solo Cello by Shirish Korde, who was also in the audience on Friday. Korde told the audience that Anusvara is a Hindu meditation technique focusing on concentrating the mind. According to Korde, students of Anusvara will listen to the sound of a bell until, after some time, they can imagine the sound in their minds. An electronic tool helped recreate the sound of an ambient drone that accompanied Müller-Szeraws’s cello. This piece was a beautiful spiritual experience, evoking Indian flourishes and ornaments and creating a truly reflective, relaxed aura in the Chapel. “I could have listened to that for hours,” a woman overheard in the audience said. The final piece reached a beautiful crescendo on its peak note, a soft, shrill noise that sent chills through the audience. In Korde’s work particularly, we saw Müller-Szeraws’s joy in his instrument shine through—his love and understanding of music, and his dedication to the cello. After the recital, Jae Shin ’11 said that this event was the first concert she has attended at PA. “It turned out to be very fun and very interesting. I usually listen to Rock music on my iPod, but this music is very different. It was very relaxing,” she said. Alex Smith ’12 said, “I liked how each section was a conversation between two voices. It was a really great time spent here.”