I entered the Lawrence Memorial Chapel a little before 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, and, contrary to my expectations, I saw a large audience gathered on the stage. Although the chapel in its entirety is an exciting acoustic space in which to listen to music, the sense of intimacy created by being on the stage was new and exciting in its own right.
The works performed that evening comprised the faculty recital of Associate Professor of Music and Viola Teacher Matthew Michelic with guest artist Associate Professor of Music Anthony Padilla on piano. It goes without saying that our musical faculty does excellent pedagogical work and goes above and beyond to nurture students and musical passion. However, being reminded of faculty members’ excellence as solo musicians is a worthwhile experience, especially in such a performance space.
One of my favorite things about musical performances is watching artists engage with a piece and seeing that engagement manifest into movement. I was lucky enough to sit in the second row, and my seat gave me the perfect view of both Michelic’s and Padilla’s facial expressions during the recital.
For example, Michelic’s brow would furrow, intense with focus, during some pieces. During others, a small smile would appear. Padilla’s face, however, seemed to open up; his eyes widened during certain melodic moments, and when his accompaniment merged with Michelic’s solo lines, he would lean toward him. Their synchronicity was contoured by the pieces and was exemplified in their facial and body movements. They were clearly invested in the music, which made me feel invested as well.
I was impressed and intrigued by the variety of people who were present for this recital. Naturally, students from the viola and piano departments were there to support their professors, but students from a variety of other departments, professors from outside the conservatory and Appleton community members also attended.
This turnout was too plentiful for the stage and overflowed into the balcony near the stage. It represented both the close-knit nature of the conservatory and the desire of many individuals outside of the conservatory to show their appreciation for music at Lawrence and the wonderful professors who make it happen.
The repertoire for the evening included two pieces by Harald Genzmer. The first was “Sonatine for Viola and Piano” and the second was “Sonate for Viola Solo.” Although similar in style to those of his famous composition teacher Paul Hindemith, this German composer’s contemporary works were less popular. However, he composed prolifically and for a vast number of instruments. Expansive bowing and a sense of layering between the piano and viola characterized his pieces played that evening.
Michelic also performed “Intermezzo for Viola and Piano” by Nino Rota. This work contrasted the Genzmer and featured lush, romantic-sounding melodies. The final piece on the program was “Sonata in A minor, D. 821” (“Arpeggione”) by Franz Schubert.
This piece was originally written for an “arpeggione,” a stringed instrument that was briefly popular during the 19th century. This piece is usually played on cello, but it sounded very full on the viola as well. Especially given the emotional expressivity of Michelic and Padilla, this “Sonata” managed to both reach beautiful heights of drama and relax into subtler, thoughtful moments of wistfulness.
On a sentimental note, Michelic took a moment at the end of his recital to thank his parents, daughter and son-in-law for attending. This was incredibly touching and reminded students and adults alike of the importance of articulating gratitude for those who support you.
After acknowledging his family and the audience, Michelic repaid his well-deserved standing ovation by playing an encore, which was my favorite piece of the evening: Claude Débussy’s “Beau Soir.” In spite of the piece having been written for vocalists, Michelic’s sensitive interpretation was full of warm tones and left everybody smiling. Fifth year and voice performance major Graycie Gardner summarized the recital aptly: “It was really lovely.”