This past weekend, Brandeis University’s music department organized a Chamber Music recital—for the first time in over a year—that allowed a live audience to join in appreciating the performing arts. “Wonderful” would be an understatement when describing the performances. Students shared their hard work by performing pieces from the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Felix Mendelssohn as well as two jazz pieces. The recital enticed audience members from various walks of life. The students, music department and  recital clearly demonstrated the mastery of the performers, drawing the audience with a euphony of instrumental duets and trios.

Throughout the whole fall semester, the performers, who were part of the Chamber Music courses (MUS 116A-1 and MUS 88A-1), prepared meticulously under the guidance of Brandeis faculty. Celia Wu-Hacochen, class of ’23 and Leonard Berstein Fellow of Music Performance, said “In terms of preparation for the concert, it has been incredibly time-consuming, stressful and rewarding all at the same time. Our chamber groups are fortunate enough to get weekly 1-hour coachings from members of the Lydian String Quartet [a performance group of associate music professors] every week, which is incredibly valuable. In addition to that, the groups usually find 1-2 additional hours during the week to rehearse on their own, and there is also a lot of individual practice as well.” The Chamber Music course certainly showcases an excellent opportunity for the performers to build experience with the guidance of valuable faculty feedback. In doing so, students personified the phrase “practice makes perfect” by not only rehearsing technically challenging pieces, but by mastering the pieces. However, mastering these challenging pieces was not the only difficulty the performers faced during their semester-long preparation.

Wu-Haochen continued, “Another big part of preparing for the concert is getting used to playing in a recital hall. The acoustics are very different from the typical classrooms that we practice in. While on stage, we tend to run into issues with timing and balance. Every sound made in the hall echoes, so notes become muddled and it’s often difficult to stay in tempo together or even hear if the sound is balanced. Through a handful of rehearsals in the hall leading up to the concert and help from our coaches, we have come to understand how to listen to each other and maintain a balance between all the instruments to create a cohesive sound.” This was something highlighted immensely by Wu-Hacochen’s own performance, a rendition of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D. Minor, op.49, with Wu-Hacochen on piano, Noel Cho ’24 on cello and Altana Schweitzer ’23 on violin. The trio produced a melodious sound that resonated throughout the auditorium and showcased not only the technical skill of the instrumentalists but also how synchronous they were: this beautiful sound was an embodiment of three people attuned to each other, working as a unit to create a work of art.

Additionally, the performance showcased a wide variety of musical pieces: there were upbeat melodies to contrast flowing, mellow pieces. A particular highlight was the jazz trio, composed of Sungwon Cho ’23 on alto saxophone, Prof. Bob Nieske (MUS) on Bass and Dakota Lichauco ’25 on piano. The trio delighted the audience with two jazz pieces, “Let’s Cool One,” by Thelonius Monk, and Samba de Orfeu (composed by Luiz Bonfá), which all featured solo spots for each of the instrumentalists to shine during the performance. The rendition was almost magnetic, showcasing not only the immense technical skill of the performers but also their charisma. It was abundantly clear that the audience was having fun with the instrumentalists, making their performance an almost interactive experience.

This interaction of mutual joy between the audience and performer was present throughout the concert. As audience member Maia Lefferman ’25 commented: “I felt a lot of joy, sitting there and soaking in the music, and the performers seemed like they were having a great time, and it was nice to hear live music again.”

A common theme among many music enthusiasts and performers alike lies in the adaptation of passion in the lens of safety. These past two years presented perseverance, especially since Brandeis’ COVID-19 policies presented challenges and restrictions in regards to live music events. The department put on shows with no live viewers and put together videos of group ensembles. Wu-Hacochen commented, “For many of us, this was our first in-person performance in two years. Although we definitely felt the pressure to perform our best, especially after the two year break, we also felt the excitement of performing in front of a live audience again.”

The performers can rest assured knowing that they put on a truly wonderful concert that certainly made their family, friends and the faculty proud.