By Madison Schindele
Chatting with cellist Aaron Wolff in the conservatory library was a lucky coincidence, for he is known for being the busiest person in the room at any given time. On Wednesday, May 3 at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel, Senior Concerto Competition Winner Wolff will perform Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Minor with the Oberlin Orchestra under Raphael Jiménez.
Anyone who knows Wolff is accustomed to hearing him play with contemporary ensembles, such as the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Semble N, and Trio Ligatura. Because of this, Prokofiev’s work, which premiered in 1952, seems to be one of the earlier pieces in Wolff’s canon. He chalked his choice of an “earlier” work up to the influence that cellist Mstislav Rostropovich has had on him. “He premiered literally hundreds of works and over 50 cello concertos, the Prokofiev being one of them: he actually wrote parts of the piece with Prokofiev. They were really good friends.”
Wolff then explained how he felt he was now a part of this “Cellist family tree,” being able to acquire the technique and stamina to properly execute the Sinfonia Concertante. “At the time of its premiere, there were some technical things only Rostropovich could do. So he taught those pieces and techniques to his students and so on — and now I’ve become a part of the tree,” he said.
Wolff always tries to bring elements of drama into his playing. “Prokofiev was really interested in the theater and dance, so there are a lot of dynamic characters and voices in the piece. Like in the second movement, where there is nostalgia, tension, disgust, violence, and pride.”
Prokofiev’s work, although enormous, isn’t the only piece on the program. Jimenéz paired it with Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. “It’s a very ambitious program” Wolff laughed. “Both works are really bombastic! It’s a good challenge for the orchestra, as well as a good end-of-the-year blowout. The Prokofiev is one of the most maniac cello concertos out there. It provides a nice closure for my time at Oberlin.”
Madison “Maddie” Schindele is in her last semester at Oberlin Conservatory, studying Vocal Performance and Musicology. Hailing from a big Greek family in New York, Madison enjoys visiting museums and eating lamb, when she’s not singing or writing. Next year, she will continue on to her Master’s in Historical Musicology at the Goldsmiths University of London.