Samuel Hoffacker’s senior recital was a chaotic spectrum of emotion. Using a variety of percussion instruments, he performed a spectacular array of compositions ranging from early classical to electroacoustic Latin rock. The performance was a patchwork quilt of tempo, volume, and energy.
The grandiose nature of Warner Concert Hall starkly contrasted the 30-people in attendance, considering the venue is meant to hold about 500 people. Perhaps the performance would have been better suited for a more intimate venue. Though performing in a nearly empty concert hall can be challenging mentally, the small turnout did not dampen the audience’s enthusiasm.
The first piece, William Bolcom’s Dark Music, was a duet with Hoffacker on the kettle drums and Luka Stefanović on cello. The volume control on this piece was most impressive, as the pianis\simo to fortissimo timpani strikes created a foreboding atmosphere. Hoffecker’s timpani went back and forth with Stefanovic’s soft fingerpicking and anxiety-inducing, herky-jerky portamentos.
The piece was reminiscent of the buildup to an on-screen death in a horror movie. The timps represented the side character exploring a dark, eerie building, while the cello riffs represented the villain dashing across the screen just out of view of the frightened character.
During Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2, the energy quickly shifted. Performing on the marimba, Hoffacker played a calming mixture of somber arpeggios, trills, and powerful chords. It was a burbling cascade of notes akin to the waterfalls connected to the koi pond just outside the concert venue. Perhaps that is where Hoffacker gained the inspiration to play this piece.
After calming the audience down, he then took the level of excitement from 0 to 100. Performing Rebonds by Iannis Xenakis, an avant-garde Greco French composer, Hoffacker pounded the congas, bongos, and snares with the thunderous passion of Zeus himself. The composition had the energy of an Indiana Jones chase scene, never stopping to relax for even a moment. Hoffacker shined brightest during the woodblock sections. He played the instrument with exceptional hand speed and surgical precision.
Finishing off with Temzecal by Javier Alvarez was an interesting choice. This was the first piece of the concert that included background music. The dystopian electronic frequencies and ominous rising tones were mixed with Spanish-influenced percussion, like a mariachi band of terminators. Over this background, Hoffacker yet again showed off his incredible hand speed, somehow managing to play 64th notes with maracas.
Later, the background music shifted into an angelic Spanish guitar, with birds chirping in the distance. Perhaps this composition was meant to represent the contrast of heaven and hell, or the pitfalls of technological innovation. Whatever the motive, the piece struck a chord with the audience, as Hoffacker received a long standing ovation at the end of the recital.
The energy of the recital was chaotic in the best way possible. Hoffacker’s choices of pieces were diverse in scope, creative, and well-executed. If he continues to hone his craft, his post-graduation career will be long and fruitful.