Music for Spring: Michael Arnowitt’s Piano

by Ruby LaBrusciano-Carris

            Like the majority of UVM students, I think, I piano concert is not usually where I end up spending most of my Tuesday evenings. But, maybe thanks to my spring fever, it seems that I will take any excuse to get out of the dorms these days, which is why I somewhat unexpectedly found myself at the UVM Recital Hall, settling into cushioned seats towards the back, facing the immense black Steinway that engulfed the majority of the warmly lit stage.

michael arnowitt

Even if it is not where I would usually expect to find myself, I could not help but be excited about the idea of branching out of the kinds of events that I normally attend, and trying something absolutely and entirely new. It is easy to forget, on an enormous college campus, that almost every night of the week there are all sorts of events and workshops and performances, most of which are free, and almost all of which would make for a more interesting night than binge-watching Netflix or perusing Buzzfeed. UVM and Burlington are literally bursting at the britches with all sorts of things to do, and every time I take a step off the beaten path, no matter how strange or unusual it is, I always seem to be much happier for the experience.

This was exactly the feeling that I had about Michael Arnowitt’s performance entitled, “Life in 1913: The Rite of Spring”. It was an opportunity to try something new, to tickle my taste buds, and I couldn’t be gladder to have been there. Although the night was positively frigid for late March, it was warm and buzzing in the Recital Hall, where people from all different walks of life and gathered for the performance. There were a number of college students, quite a few professors, some people from in and around town, and even more from farther out, who were dedicated fans of the pianist’s performances.

Michael Arnowitt himself does not have an overwhelming stage presence. He is humble, and a little soft-spoken, and carries himself with the meandering gait of someone who is right where they’re supposed to be. His music on the other hand, has a power and vibrancy that deeply contrasts with his quiet persona. As his fingers flew across the keys of the piano, the sound painted a picture of what life was like in 1913, as the title for his performance suggests. As he had mentioned at the beginning of the concert, this show was the answer to the question; “If you were alive in 1913, what would you have heard?” The year itself was a fascinating time for art, music, and literature, because it was both emerging out of a long era of appreciation and finessing of the arts, as well as on the brink of many huge societal changes, somewhat in reaction to the oncoming WWI, which would create, in many ways, a contemporary artistic revolution. Because of this, the year of 1913 trembles on the transitional point between two significant eras in artistic history, as was expressed in the musical exploration of Michael Arnowitt.

The performance lasted for just under two hours, including the intermission, and covered pieces from composers all across the board. We started with Debussy, wandered into Rachmaninov and Satie, and finished off the first half with the lesser-known but incredibly influential work of Leo Ornstein. The second half was the ultimate finale to the performance, which began with the work of New England based Charles Ives, but culminated in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which, in 1913, supposedly inspired the biggest riot ever known to occur at a classical music concert.

Walking out, I was thoroughly happy to have experienced such a cultured and artistically inspirational night of music. Although it is not normally my cup of tea, there was no reason why not to take to the short walk over to Redstone, for a concert that was both free, and magnificent. If you are interested in taking a dive into something new, don’t forget about the BORED calendar—maybe its time to just close your eyes, blindly point, and see where you find yourself next!