Symphony Shines in Buckley Welcoming Concert
By Daniella Bassi ’14, Contributing Writer
At an indication from concertmaster Alicia Ciccone ’11, the Symphony Orchestra tuned to the steady and enigmatically nasal sound of an oboe, the string instruments testing a variety of pitches while the winds perfected a single concert one. Such was the procedure that preceded each of the three selections the ensemble performed on Saturday night at Buckley Recital Hall as the instrumentation fluctuated with each piece. Hearing the group, my expectations were high: every section had a clear, dark unwavering sound, and the blend of pitches was smooth and harmonious. “I’ve never been surrounded by so much talent…everyone here is so good — they love what they do,” Abigail Gray ’14, violinist, told me the night before the concert. These words manifested themselves unexaggerated in the performance.

The program for the concert consisted of “Overture to Don Giovanni, K. 527” by Mozart (1787); the fourth movement of “Symphony No. 1 in D major, ‘Titan’” by Mahler (1888); and “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, op. 61” by Beethoven (1806). Through the course of the three selections, the ensemble showed remarkable dexterity and versatility, expressing mournful, austere, bright, dramatic, suspenseful, romantic and even scary emotions authentically. The group had a smooth, rich, full sound on every dynamic level, showing an astounding level of contrast between movements and highlighting soloists perfectly. Especially surprising was the level of softness the brass instruments — particularly the French horns and trumpets — achieved without sacrificing tone quality, as were the robust, readily audible voices of the flutes, clarinets and oboes — instruments that are usually difficult to hear in large groups.

The orchestra also articulated perfectly; the strings slurred and separated notes with equal grace and sound quality in the most complex passages and with the most intense tempos, even using dainty string plucking in the latter part of the performance. The winds tongued cleanly, separating notes in an elegant, inconspicuous way ideal for their classical style and without any squeaks from the woodwinds. Also remarkable was the way the percussion section collaborated so seamlessly with the instrumentalists, seasoning their performance with further palpability and drama. Tempo was kept rigidly and immaculately, though playing anything but unemotional.

A few notable solos were had in the second selection in particular, where the entire expanded French horn section all pushed their stands back, stood up and played with wonderful, emphasized passion, and in which the trumpets had a romantic muted call. There was also a suspenseful, husky bassoon solo in a very quiet section of the piece. Apart from these there were lone clarinet, oboe and flute lines in all the pieces, which accentuated their themes and style and added a pleasantly foreign register to the string arena.

The final piece was the longest and most stylistically varied, though it also had the least amount of wind instruments interjecting the string orchestral sound. It featured violinist Michiko Theurer ’11 as the main soloist through its entirety. Theurer played with ease and tranquility on her face, her eyes closed through much of the performance. Her scalar passages were smooth and free of hesitating bumps and pauses. Her playing in the lower register was full and pleasing, while her upper one was light but not thin or stringy and very uplifting. She played in a variety of styles, casting both bright and springy and gloomy and heavy moods very honestly, and led the orchestra — which answered her lines — beautifully. The changes corresponded to the movements comprising the piece: I. Allegro, ma non troppo (“fast but not too much,” which brings dynamic emotion with it, more dramatic than happy); II. Larghetto (much slower by comparison and bringing more sorrowful moods); and III. Rondo (also fast but light, dancelike and effervescent). She was well in tune, on tempo, and made no evident mistakes, everything sounding seamlessly and euphonious — impressively achieved with no sheet music before her.

The audience was large, filling almost every seat in Buckley and reacting to the performance with a long, unbroken applause that lasted several minutes after Mark Swanson, Music Director and Conductor of the group, walked off the stage. Freshman Edith Cricien ’14 found the performance “intense,” and was “in shock at the skills [of the group]”. Another first-year student, Samara Fanti ’14, was similarly blown away.

A reception followed the performance, with milk and cookies and plenty of discussion, during which violinist Benjamin Boatwright ’14 revealed that the ensemble had been practicing for two and a half hours twice a week for several weeks since the beginning of the semester, including additional, longer Sunday rehearsals. For those who missed the Symphony Orchestra’s “Freshman Concert” (as trombonist Ariel Suzuki dubbed it, a welcome for the Class of 2014), the last page of the program promised many subsequent performances in the coming months.

Issue 04, Submitted 2010-09-29 00:35:22