-by Tessa Gregory
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, students and community members of all ages gathered in Hertz Hall for a concert of 20th century composer Andrew Imbrie’s music. The concert began with a “Sextet for Six Friends” (2006), performed by the ECO Chamber Ensemble and conducted by David Milnes. The call-and-response between the string section (consisting of violin, viola, and cello) and the wind section (flute, oboe, and clarinet) kept the audience captivated in the sweeping ascending and descending chord arpeggios. The piece takes on the form of a conversation between two distinct instrumental groups, each repeating a musical phrase of the other and then elaborating on it. This conversational aspect of the performance was complimented by the body language of the performers: they would lean toward one another and give each other pointed looks, communicating through a series of silent cues amongst themselves and responding to those of David Milnes, bringing their various instrumental voices into one unified whole.
The concert proceeded to “Three Songs for Mixed Chorus” (1965), a song which was composed while Andrew Imbrie was a professor in the UC Berkeley Music Department. The voices of the UC Chamber Chorus filled the hall with eerie and mellifluous tones that seemed to contrast comically with the light lyrics of “The Serpent”, based off a poem by Theodore Roethke: “He was a Serpent with a soul; He got no Pleasure down his Hole. And so, of course, he had to Sing, And Sing he did, like Anything!” The other two songs were also chillingly beautiful, although their subject matter was not so light-hearted. The first was “a wind has blown the rain away”, based on an e.e. cummings poem and the second, “Love distills desire”, was from the chorus from Hippolytus, by Euripides. For those with an appreciation for poetry or Greek tragedy, this portion of the concert would have been especially interesting, although the light and airy vocal quality of the UC Chamber Chorus would be able to transform any lyric into a beautiful musical experience.
The final performance that I was able to see was a “Piano Quartet” (1999), performed by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota. This performance took on a similar dialectical structure to the first, except this time the conversation was between a pianist and a string section consisting of violin, viola, and cello. The highlights of the piece were the moments of frenetic intensity in which the strings and piano switched off playing quick and emotionally-charged phrases that would entwine and separate, only to come all together at the end once again to rest at a quiet and peaceful conclusion.
Unfortunately I was only able to make it for the first half of this concert, but I would highly encourage all UC Berkeley students and anyone else with an interest in music to attend the free noon concerts at Hertz Hall. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity to listen to free live music performed by talented musicians consisting of fellow students, faculty, and a wide array of guest performers!