"With this program, I wanted to present a journey through the ages, displaying strongly passionate works with a variety of textures and musical vocabulary," McWilliams said.
The program opened with the three-movement "Lamento della Ninfa," written in 1638 by Italian composer Monteverdi. The piece featured mezzo-soprano Music Professor Anne Adams, who vividly portrayed the sorrowful story of a doomed romance. Adams was accompanied by McWilliams on harpsichord, Music Professor Gerald Hoekstra on viola da gamba and a trio of male voices consisting of Music Professors Robert Smith, James McKeel and Department Chair Dan Dressen.
Jumping ahead to the early 19th century, the next segment of the program featured two folk song settings by Ludwig van Beethoven. These light musical treats were performed with humorous charm by Adams, Music Professor Nancy Paddleford on fortepiano, Music Professor David Carter on cello, and Music Instructor Ray Shows on violin.
The programs centerpiece was the 1888 Johannes Brahms "Sonata in d minor" for violin and piano. The four-movement work, performed by Music Professor Charles Gray on violin and McWilliams on piano, explores emotions ranging from the opening movements dark angst to the heroic theme of the fourth movement. McWilliams described the piece as "a dramatic tour de force."
Next on the program was "Cinco canciones populares argentines" by Alberto Ginastera, written in 1943. This suite of five Argentine folk song settings, which mixed traditional musical idioms of Argentina with contemporary compositional technique, added a world music feel to an otherwise Western-oriented program. The work was performed by vocalist Adams and pianist Paddleford, who has extensive experience researching and performing Latin American music.
The recital concluded with the vocal trio "Lullabye," written three years ago by local composer Tom Schnauber, a former St. Olaf faculty member. The piece was performed by Smith, McKeel, and Dressen, who lent a sense of musical serenity to the tune.
"[Lullabye] was somewhat imitative of the style of the Monteverdi piece, thus bringing the program full circle at the end," explained McWilliams. "It was a real joy to put the whole program together. As a musician, I feel that playing in small chamber groups is one of the most rewarding kinds of performance."
The other recitals in the Centennial Concert series will feature themes of love, Feb. 19, globalization, March 11, the United States, April 8, and Norwegian heritage, May 13. All concerts in the series will take place during Thursday Community Time in Urness Recital Hall.