Lizst's Ballade no. 2 in B minor, S. 171, is filling the McConnell Auditorium with those same sinister, thrilling, cacophonous chords that Horowitz banged out at the Met in 1981 with such memorable passion. Right here, right now, in real life, right in front of me, Manon Hutton-DeWys is wielding this fat axe of sound and battering at all the edges of this theater, sending off sparks. She is a slight, small, poised woman in a dress printed with shimmering silver disks. She pumps the pedals in tiny heels that occasionally squeak against the floor.
Hutton-DeWys has a dazzling record simply rolling with credentials (...CARNEGIE HALL...), but because she attended Simon's Rock College she returns periodically to grace Great Barrington with her mastery. I am used to being the only young person at classical concerts; even here on a college campus, the audience is almost strictly senior citizens. There is a handful of students, mostly all banked on the left side of auditorium where we can watch her hands play in the light. Hunched over and serious, she follows with her eyes one hand scuttling across the slippery-glossy keys in a run of sparkling notes. Her arms are reflected in the piano itself, the most majestic and indisputably tuned one on campus -- it has been shined so vigorously that you can see the copper strings reflected in the underbelly of the open lid.
She closes out the show with a Chopin sonata, also in B minor, and emerges after persistent applause for a Chopin nocturne encore to complement its predecessor. It seems like the audience cannot stop clapping and "mm"-ing with pleasure, with all that pent-up admiration kept bottled inside in the aftermath of previous movements. We stay still in our seats, corseted by decorous silence.
A few of students headed straight to the dance after the concert -- straight to a hothouse of sweat, bumping & grinding red-faced in the ecstatic seizure drone. I tried, but didn't stay long. I ended up walking home still lost in the calm of Chopin, in the repressed state of passion that classical music instills in me. Obsessed with those carefully contained segments of precarious sound structures flashing their temporal sublime beauty in the sun of your immediate attention, the revelation of your conscious mind latching onto something undoubtedly sublime, before falling away into splinters and nails to build the next structure, the next phrase, of precarious instantaneous beauty.