"Celebration of the New" flute and piano concert showcases Artists-in-Residence talents: Jan Vinci and Pola Baytelman combine unique skills to present original works in Zankel

Posted by Olivia Powers

On Oct. 2 the college's Senior Artist-in-Residence Jan Vinci and Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Pola Baytelman combined their talent to enliven Ladd Concert Hall of the Arthur Zankel Music Center.

With Vinci on flute and Baytelman on piano the aptly named "Celebration of the New" concert featured six works from a variety of American composers. This concert was the second stop in a three-part series, which the duo is performing at three venues in the Capital Region.

The concert began with a playful piano piece composed by Joseph Fennimore, who attended the show. "An Old Soft Shoe" harkened back to the lively tap dancing of the previous century. One almost expects Fred Astaire to shuffle onto stage, called from the grave by the spirited notes.

The music took an experimental turn as Vinci took the stage in a black evening gown to perform "Crow's Nest," a flute solo composed by professor of music Mark Vinci, who is also her husband. The audience was instructed to imagine a shipmate perched above the water and the view that met his eyes as he looked out over the ocean.

"I asked [him] to write something more upbeat as flute solos are often very somber," said Vinci to the audience.

The concert continued with pieces by Katherine Hoover, Lowell Lieberman, George Crumb and Jennifer Higdon. The performers carried on, demonstrating their expertise by employing extended techniques that enhanced their instruments.

Vinci sang into her flute while she played and Baytelman reached into the piano to pluck at the strings. These skills added to the unique performance.

However, this experimental music style may have been the reason that few Skidmore students were in attendance. The concert was free and open to the public, something of which elder Saratogians took advantage. While the audience was dominated by the 60 and over crowd, the Skidmore music students in attendance were appreciative of the opportunity to see such acclaimed artists perform.

"As a developing flautist I found the concert inspirational," Filene Scholar Katie Murphy '14 said. "As a contemporary concert, it featured a lot of extended technique, skills that I am learning."

The two musicians showed an undeniable chemistry as they took the stage together and wove the notes of their respective instruments seamlessly into a rich tapestry of sound. The aspiring professional musicians in the audience admired their craft.

"I think that it's excellent that [Skidmore] provides students with the opportunity to see what being a professional musician is like," Filene Scholar Laura Pendleton '14 said. "It opens our eyes to the fact that being a musician is not easy. It takes a lot of practice, perfection and hard work, and we see that through watching [Vinci and Baytelman] perform so elegantly."

The concert concluded with Jennifer Higdon's "Flute Poetic" (2010), which the duo presented the world premiere of last fall. Higdon, a Pulitzer Prize winner, composed the first movement of the three-part sonata specifically for Vinci and Baytelman.

"The concert gave students an opportunity to hear music that they might not have otherwise been familiar with," Murphy said.

The college is attempting to carry this education beyond Sunday's performance. Katherine Hoover, composer of the Medieval Suite performed by Vinci and Baytelman, is scheduled to return to campus to guest teach the college's flute students.


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