It was a night for her hometown, Melrose, to be proud. Jessica Lynch, slender, attractive, dark hair simply tucked behind her ears, in a simple, black top, maroon skirted dress, sat at her cello and played with astonishing beauty.
Memorial Hall's upstairs chamber, Grand Army Hall, was filled with many who have known her since she began studying the cello in third grade with Mary Weeks, orchestra director of Melrose Public Schools. At 25, she shows undoubted promise of a fine career as a musician in string quartet or as a soloist.
Her program brought music of Schumann, Gregg, Lao and a work by her friend, 25-year-old composer Matthew Whittle. She performed them all with consummate musicianship, with a multi-toned, very full sound that all good cellists cannot accomplish. Her pianist, Hisako Hiratsuka, was also impressive, at all times in simpatico with Lynch, and often stirring in her own instrument's bravura passages.
The cello is perhaps the most human instrument; that is, has a sound with human tones or emotional entreaty, fond communing, wailing or protesting, lyrical meditating or moods of dreaminess. Lynch met all of the composers' demands, technical and interpretive, with unfailing sureness and intelligence.
Grieg's Sonato in A Minor, Opus 36, seldom heard, is Grieg at his most introspective, also most daring. The cellist brought out the lovely legato section of the opening allegro agitate with finely-spun mellow tones, the andante tranquillo in broadly expansive arcs, and delving into the allegro and agitato sections with exciting abandon. Very interesting were many moments of plucking her strings. For many of us, this was a first hearing of this work, and the cellist's sensitivity made it enthralling.
The instruments they play and their individual signature tones make solo cellists distinctive, differing from each other. Young Ms. Lynch manages an amazing range of color -- sometimes offering a richly mellow, sweet sound that is lyrical, lovely, with a honeyed surface. Then she can shift to a huskier, reedier tone, powerful and penetrating. This remarkable range that allows for a marvelous sense of interpreting music in depth and subtlety, should set the stage for a happy career.
The opening music of Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70, immediately perked up our ears at her ravishing middle tones and every moment's phrasing, never a routine approach. Her second offering was a very modern piece by Whitall, "From the Edge of Mist," unaccompanied. Here was eye-blinking contrast -- thin scratch tones, jagged slashing, dramatic pizzicato, some striking double stopping. Often it sounded as if the composer was in a snit, perhaps had a bad hair day; suddenly traditional tones returned, gratefully, lonely and pensive. So there were some interesting moments.
Romantic composer Edouard Lalo's Concerto in D Minor, the closing piece, is a strong declarative work. The young musician made the dramatic passages dramatic, a nice hint of questioning lightly in the opening Prelude, and brought a sprightliness to the Intermezzo.
Having graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Lynch will attend the Manhattan School of Music in New York to attain her master's degree. Her Melrose audience, who gave her a rousing standing ovation, will be awaiting her musical successes.
May 30, 2000
This article was previously published on May 25, in the Melrose Free Press. Reprinted here with permission of the Melrose Free Press.