WILLIAMSTOWN - One of the pleasures of Tanglewood is hearing and seeing students get excited about classical music. The Berkshire Symphony's season-ending concert Friday night packed that kind of punch.
Four Williams College student soloists, along with a student conductor, went before the orchestra as winners of its annual student soloist competition. Impressive all around — the more so because these were liberal arts students, not conservatory products like most Tanglewood students.
In addition to furnishing support for the soloists, director Ronald Feldman and the half-student, half-professional orchestra concluded the evening with a rousing performance of Stravinsky's 1919 "Firebird" Suite, which concisely links the most dramatic passages of the full ballet. Swirl, sweep and — in Kastchei's Infernal Dance — savagery poured from the stage
The program spoke well of not only the performers but also the Williams music department, which had prepared them. In the program bios, each thanked his or her teachers - Williams and otherwise. The well-attended program in Chapin Hall was also an affirmation of the arts at a time when politicians and much of pop culture flaunts ignorance as the ideal.
The soloists clearly chose their pieces for showy effect. Virtuosity was in good supply, but always there was musical feeling and sense beneath the glitter.
Even a Mozart aria, the Count's "Hai gia vinta la causa" ("you've won the cause already") from "The Marriage of Figaro," called on powers of showmanship. Its torments over an assignation were sung and enacted with commanding effect by senior Harold Theurer, who already has considerable stage experience. His voice should continue to develop with further experience.The leadoff soloist, junior Anna DeLoi, unearthed a harp concerto by Reinhold Gliere, a composer little performed except for his "Ilya Murometz" Symphony and "Russian Sailors' Dance," which Public Radio delights in unearthing. Playing the first movement, DeLoi turned its swooning, Tchaikovsky-like melody into a love song. The cadenza was especially notable for its colors and rhythmic fluency.
With cascades of silvery notes, junior Tiffany Sun romped through the jazzy jokes and bluesy waltz in the third movement of Ibert's Flute Concerto. Senior Joyce Lee brought a powerful technique and nicely shaded warmth to the romantic effusions in the first movement of Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2.
Completing the talent parade, sophomore Leonard Bopp, who directs the college's Chamber Orchestra, led a hard-driving performance of Beethoven's taut "Coriolan" Overture. Bopp seemed a particular favorite of a student cheering section in the audience. Much success to them all, soloists and orchestra players alike.