Juilliard recently got a face lift, and while for the past two years I was rather against seeing my beloved Juilliard Plaza go, now I must say I kinda like it. The new building looks very chic, and when a little bird told me of a (free) cello studio recital there last Friday, I decided to go check it out. Getting to Morse Hall was pretty easy. It is a cozy little recital space, but Bonnie Hampton’s ten cellists made it epic.
The program ranged from baroque to modernism. The most enjoyable part of the concert was to see how 10 cellos interact, and how they vary piece to piece. The first half of the program had all ten students on stage and opened with a beautiful Bach Chorale “An Wasserflüssen Babylon.” The harmonies of the chorale contrasted with the conversation in “Hymn to Saint Cecilia” by Colin Hampton, the second piece.
Next came a series of ten preludes for the solo cello composed by Sofia Gubaidulina. Watching this was pretty much an earth-shattering experience. There was a prelude titled “Ricochet” in which the cellist actually hit her bow against the cello strings and let it bounce. Another prelude had the cellist plucking with her fingering hand (imagine the force!), only occasionally rubbing the strings with her index finger wrapped in paper instead of using a bow. While not all of the preludes were this innovative, they still offered some new perspectives on the cello.
The first half concluded with Villa-Lobos’ “Fugue (Conversa),” which was probably my favorite piece. Aside from being a conversation between cellos, there were parts of it when the cellists looked like they were all dancing together.
The second half of the program was three cello quartets playing chamber music. It was pretty interesting that all pieces were originally written for the violin, but then arranged for cello quartets by Laszlo Varga. The students performed Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 3, No. 11, Bartok’s Hungarian Peasant Songs, and Bach’s Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004. Of these, I enjoyed the arrangement for the Chaconne the most. The lush harmonies of the cello quartet arrangement create a moodier tone than in the violin solo. If you ever come across any of Varga’s cello arrangements, based on the ones from the recital, I highly recommend you listen to them.
All in all, the concert was fun, especially since it was free. Juilliard offers more free events in dance, theater, and music, and you can check them out here.
Ayo Alston-Moore, CC ’11