Cello Reveries at Reid Hall

Well, sometimes a little Facebook procrastination actually does pay off. Last night, while putting off some Schubert reading, I scrolled aimlessly through my News Feed, looking for…something. Suddenly, the words “Paris,” “Reid Hall,” “Concert,” jumped out at me. Professor Boynton — the music department’s strong advocate — had written a post about a performance at Reid Hall.


A Midsummer Night’s Concert would be a good way to describe tonight’s atmosphere. Sun rays beamed through the windows, clouds twirled through the blue expanse, and students milled about — chatting, laughing. In short, not a care in the world.


Appropriate for this aura was the first piece on the program: Bach’s famous Suite No. 1 in G Major.


It is à propos that Bach literally means “stream” in German. Whenever I hear the cello suites, I automatically picture myself plopped down next to a brook. The pebbles whirl along as the water zigs and zags through a Bavarian wood. Peaceful, in a word.


From Bach we made a rather large jump of about 350 years to Peteris Vasks’ Pianissimo, a movement from his Book for Solo Cello. I really enjoyed listening to this piece. It featured a drone, over which the cellist spun out hauntingly modal tunes. Before I go any further, I must commend Hee-Young Lim for her phenomenal work tonight. Lim, the principal cellist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic — no small feat by any means — performed with resolved nuance. Her Bach was warm and her Vask suitably icy.


Lim’s abilities extended beyond the instrumental realm. For Pianissimo, she had to sing while playing the cello. In essence, she created three-lined music all by herself. Harmonizing vocally while playing an instrument is challenging, yet Lim made it sound très facile.


To conclude, Reid Hall featured one of Columbia’s own: Peter Susser.


Susser’s work, Cello Suite, paid clear homage to the first piece on the program. While Bach exhibited continual smoothness, Susser — a cellist himself — integrated intriguing spikes and spices into a recognizably Bachian texture. In The Curb, the fifth dance from his suite, Lim stumbled along a Parisian sidewalk, like a little kid with a lollipop in one hand and a Nintendo DS in the other.


Tonight’s offering presented completely different musical styles. Yet, from one work to the other, I recognized continuities in compositional approaches. Because of these connections, the program achieved unity. This is exactly what well-thought-out, effective programming looks like. Thank you for a cohesive night of cello reveries.