One of the many performing ensembles that UNC's Department of Music supports is the University Chamber Players. Under the direction of Donald L. Oehler, a gathering of student musicians, both music majors and talented non-majors, give a recital at the end of each term in Person Recital Hall, playing a mix of standard chamber repertory and new works. On Tuesday, April 23, 2002, twelve players provided evidence of Oehler's and the Department's high standards and rigorous training.
The evening opened with the Brass Trio by American composer Arthur Frackenpohl. Written in 1968, this work for trumpet, trombone and horn has four short movements. The Prelude begins with march-like flourishes and then falls into a mellow melody, bubbling along. A somber Air follows relieved by the succeeding Scherzo, with a jaunty swagger reminiscent of an English sea shanty. The Finale has a toe-tapping circus-like theme, sassy and showy, the trumpet's bold runs giving a nod to Shostakovich. The piece is attractive and offers a combination of instruments not usually found in more traditional chamber settings.
The trio of players (Kevin Crotty, trumpet; Noah McLean, trombone; Jon Caldwell, horn) blended well with each other, filling the small confines of Person Hall with almost overwhelming volume. All three got to show off their virtuosity in the tricky Finale and maintained springy tempos for the Prelude and Scherzo. Only in the long breaths of the Air did both their intonations and sense of architecture falter.
Weber's Trio in G minor, op. 63 , for piano, flute and cello, brought on the best playing of the evening. It's invigorating sparkle and warm melodiousness moved pianist Fred Kameny, flutist Tara Schwab and cellist Joseph Kwon to an inspired performance. It was evident from the first few measures that these players had a firm grip on the moods and designs of each movement. They easily suggested the foreboding of the opening, delightfully ompah-pahed through the whirling Scherzo, made a lovely hymn of the third movement and gave defiant force to the finale's aria-like strains.
Kwon's cello tone was especially affecting in the lower register (the upper range was strong but sometimes edgy) and the little smiles breaking through his otherwise serious concentration indicated his connection with the music. Fred Kameny was quietly intense and energetic at the keyboard, impressive in the cascading runs of the first movement and the stormy chords in the last. Tara Schwab's firm, rounded tone and long-breathed phrasing made the flute an equal partner with the others.
Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen was given a lovely, subtle rendering by soprano Katherine Hughes, pianist Sally DeJoseph and clarinetist Michael Kertcher. After a nervous beginning with not enough breath support, Hughes's voice became gently sweet in the softer passages and suitably full in louder, passionate sections. Her interpretations of the shepherd's longing, grief and joy, however, were not differentiated enough, making for a somewhat bland characterization. DeJoseph was smoothly supportive at the piano while Kertcher made the most of the clarinet's near-soloist part with impressive dynamic range, woody tone and emotional insight.
The evening ended with the Brahms Trio in A minor, Op. 114, for piano, clarinet and cello. This mature, introspective work, unlike the more extroverted, virtuosic pieces earlier on the program, requires a deep understanding of its various moods to bring it off successfully. This was perhaps too challenging a choice for a student performance, Pianist An Li, clarinetist Jennifer Cox and cellist Hillary Vaden had demonstrable talent and training to play the written notes and to give the piece strong rhythmic life and appropriate dynamics. But their playing missed the requisite shades of atmosphere, the private emotions and the personal involvement. This was a tall order, daunting to even the most established, experienced musicians, so it was understandable that all the depths were not plumbed.
This recital gave strong evidence of UNC's student talent, providing them needed performance experience and the audience welcome proof that a younger generation of musicians will keep chamber music alive.