Eastern Michigan University’s School of Music and Dance welcomed guest cellist, Benjamin Whitcomb, and his accompanied pianist, Vincent DeVries Tuesday night in Alexander Recital Hall.
Benjamin Whitcomb teaches cello and music theory at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. A graduate from Oklahoma State University, Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin, Whitcomb has made a reputation nationally as an active and skilled cellist.
Vincent DeVries is a graduate from Bowling Green State University, Indiana University and University of Texas at Austin. DeVries has taught as well as performed worldwide and has won awards for his skills in music, especially in piano.
DeVries was assigned to Whitcomb to be his accompanist when Whitcomb was invited as an alumnus to the UT-A. The two have been playing together since then and have performed in tours with each other nationally and internationally each year.
After taking a year off for sabbatical, the duo came back this fall to tour again, perform and give master classes in places such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Performing five out of seven days they have decided to fill a missing day to add a sixth performance.
“We actually found out two weeks ago. He [Whitcomb] contacted EMU and had a day free from his tour and was like hey, I have a free day- how would you like a free concert? It’s nice to see an old colleague,” said EMU Professor of Cello, Daniel Thomas.
Before introducing himself and DeVries, Whitcomb started the night off with an introduction of the first piece, “Twelve Variations on ‘Ein Madchen oder Weibchen’” by Ludwig van Beethoven from the opera, “The Magic Flute” by Mozart.
“A lot of composers will throw up a lot of great piece variations but Beethoven takes the cake,” said Whitcomb.
Whitcomb explained Beethoven’s set of variations and how having more than three can make it sound like it is in a logical order or expression rather than random.
“It often makes me think of a narrative of which something young maybe immature and naïve then gradually goes through several of experiences and grows up by the end.”
The audience was in deep silence to search within for that narrative. The piece felt as if following the life of a child as the piano and cello went up and down in sound. Enchanting and playful, Beethoven’s Twelve Variations was a high number to start the concert.
Edvard Greig was next for the duo as they performed “Sonata in E Minor, Op.36.” In the sonata, there were three movements. The first being Allegro Agitato, then an Andante Molto Tranquillo, and closing the piece was an Allegro Molto e Marcato.
Described by Whitcomb as brilliant and traumatic, the audience was told that they would be hearing Norwegian folk scenes and quotes from a funeral and a wedding piece.
Quotes were visible for the listeners as the cello and piano played off of each other like a call and response conversation. As Sonatas are for cello and piano, the duo created a beautiful story of sometimes intense, but also slow and calm voices that the instruments had produced.
The final piece of the night was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Sonata in G Minor, Op.19.” The sonata had four movements, which were a Lento: Allegro Moderato, and then following after was an Allegro Scherzando and an Andante. The finale was an Allegro Mosso.
Whitcomb described the movements in the piece as magnificent and grandiose.
“Sonata is labeled for piano,” Whitcomb joked. “Rachmaninoff didn’t have it in him to make simple piano pieces.”
The piece started with Whitcomb smoothly stroking the Cello with his bow. A soft tone was created as Devries soon jumped in with light touches on the piano. The sounds of the instruments echoed through the hall as the duo created a sweet send-off for the audience.
“I thought it was awesome,” said junior cello performance major, Jamie Gallupe. “I’m a cellist and it was very good. I’m glad we got to see a cello recital.”
You can find more information for upcoming events from the School of Music and Dance on their calendar http://www.emich.edu/musicdance/events/.
The next guest artist will be Youmee Kim at 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 in the Alexander Recital Hall.