Surrounded by his grandmother, his grandfather, a pianist, a violinist and several other musicians, Ethan McIntosh ’15 sat in his grandparents’ living room. Holding his viola, McIntosh put his bow to the strings and the other musicians began to play a Mendelssohn octet, as he described in an interview with The Phillipian. McIntosh recalls that, although the piece was “challenging,” it was one of his earliest and most enjoyable musical experiences.
“Whenever I go see my grandparents, especially when I was a kid, we play lots of chamber music and that definitely contributed to my musicality. They would put really hard pieces in front of me and see if I could sight-read them. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it was really fun and that’s definitely where a lot of my love for chamber music comes from. My grandparents are probably the biggest influence musically on me,” said McIntosh.
While off-campus, his musical influence comes from his grandparents. On-campus, McIntosh turns to Holly Barnes, Instructor in Music, for musical instruction.
“Ms. Barnes is an incredible teacher. She’s really good in terms of helping me identify things both technically and musically that I can work on. I only have half hour lessons with her, but she packs a lot into that time and makes it worth it,” said McIntosh.
Last Friday evening, McIntosh, who began playing the viola in fourth grade, performed in a solo viola recital in the Timken Room of Graves as as a celebration of his musical career.
McIntosh began his concert by playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor.” Dominated by staccato notes that McIntosh articulated clearly, the first three sections of the five-part song moved at a moderately slow pace. This tempo contrasted with the last two parts of the piece, which picked up speed and had several trills and chord changes.
“The Bach suite was a great piece for me to work on phrasing. The sheet music looks like a wall of sixteenth notes, but there are opportunities everywhere for little crescendos, diminuendos and changes of color. Out of the three pieces I played, I studied the Bach most closely to really develop the line of the music, and I was happy with my performance. It’s a fun piece because once you get into it, you can really get into a kind of flow,” said McIntosh.
Next, McIntosh played composer Franz Schubert’s “Sonata Arpeggione” for Viola and Piano in A Minor, accompanied by Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music. Smooth, legato notes appeared throughout as a single, gentle melody recurred several times throughout the piece, eventually swelling into a rapid and tense segment. The viola returned from this section of agitation, and McIntosh ended the piece with a single high note and the reintroduction of the earlier melody.
“The ‘Arpeggione’ was the heavy hitter of the recital. It’s technically difficult and somewhat flashy, and required quite a lot of practicing. Once I had some grasp of the technical stuff, though, I was able to do a lot with the phrasing, and it ended up being a highlight of the recital. One thing I like about it is that it incorporates a lot of contrast both in dynamics and in color. In the end, it was the work I put into developing that contrast that made it an audience favorite,” said McIntosh.
McIntosh’s rendition of “Salut d’Amour” by Edward Elgar ended the show. Walter once again accompanied McIntosh as the two played the same short melody, echoing each other in harmony. The tune of the viola gradually developed into subtle variations of this melody while the piano provided a steady backdrop.
“The Elgar [piece] is short and sweet, and I mainly picked it as a way to end the recital on a sweet note and give audience members something to hum to themselves afterwards. It was the least technically difficult, but I made sure to make it ring and took it at a nice, slow tempo during the recital,” said McIntosh.
“I’m pretty sure this was my first solo recital at Andover. Before this, I had mostly worked on orchestra and chamber music up until now and I hadn’t played in the Timken room with an accompaniment. So I was a little nervous, and since I’m an introvert getting in front a large group of people, I had to get over that a little bit. But in the end, I think the concert went really well and it was a good experience… It’s definitely a highlight of the spring term, and of the year,” continued McIntosh.