It has been over a year since I performed in my last orchestra concert. I greatly miss playing my violin, often reminiscing about my favorite pieces, but due to classes and other time commitments, I had to quit. One of my favorite concerts of the year was the concerto concert. It was truly a unique experience to be able to perform with excellent peer soloists who had talent that far exceeded my own.
It is often hard to be truly objective when reviewing an artistic performance, but it would be an extreme disservice to soloist Janelle Bouman, a sophomore biology major, to not say anything but the best. Her piece, “Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 283” by Carl Reinecke was simply magnificent. Playing “Allegro molto moderato,” the first of three movements, Bouman showed true expertise with her instrument. Her intonation and confidence was professional, merging seamlessly with the rest of the orchestra without any hints of nervousness that often plagues performers.
I am no expert when it comes to flute performance, but to my ears there was not a wrong note. Fast sections were performed with confidence, and the crispness and punctuality of notes in the infamous chapel of the reverberation were commendable.
While I was thoroughly enjoying the entire performance, there was one section that was incredibly memorable. About a third of the way into the performance, there was a back and forth answering between Bouman and the rest of the orchestra that really caught my attention. Seeming to have a minor tone implication, the section was a true highlight of the dialogue with the soloist and ensemble.
Romantic and beautiful, Bouman’s performance was everything you'd expect of a 19th century flute concerto. Reinecke was best known for being a teacher rather than a composer with memorable pupils including Edvard Grieg. While his flute concertos are not at the forefront of flute repertoire, they are still highly regarded, often echoing the famed Johannes Brahms. I applaud Janelle for her effortless and inspiring performance as well as expanding my knowledge of lesser known flute repertoire.
It was rewarding to the audience to witness a performance that truly represents the tedious hours of practice and hard work put in. I hope that Bouman continues to perform as a soloist in the future.
I have been playing the piano for a good bit of my life, having enjoyed many styles including jazz, pop and theater. I never connected with classical however. Seeing a performer as talented as sophomore Kelly Langevin is a true privilege.
Langevin’s piece “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor” by Camille Saint-Saëns is arguable one of Saint-Saën’s most memorable and well known piano concertos. A traditional three movement piece, Langevin performed the first movement, “Andante sostenuto.” A slow, melancholy and dramatic theme follows the gorgeous and technical opening solo.
Langevin effortlessly worked her way up and down the keyboard with an air of calmness that was quite surprising given the drama of the piece. It is easy for a soloist to lose oneself in the emotion and feeling of the music, yet it was refreshing to see a performer focused in the perfect reproduction of her chosen piece.
Powerful upward and downward progressions moved the piece quickly along with the intense strong chord structure. The piece was an excellent choice for Langevin who excelled at the fast sections while still showing appreciation for slow and tender sections, of which is arguable the most difficult part of performing. She showed true musicianship with her ability to create such a dramatic contrast between forte and piano.
The last return of the theme is particularly haunting and emotional in combination with the slow building of the strings and chords that change back to a major from a minor run. It created a heart string tugging feeling that can rekindle anyones love for music. Langevin has a long career of music ahead of her.
Congratulations to both of the soloists on their impressive performances.
In addition to the soloists, the orchestra always performs other pieces to showcase the abilities of the orchestra as well as bracket the concerto performances.
The concert opened with Aaron Copland’s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Immortalized for its constant use in film, “Fanfare for the Common Man” is a showcase for the often underappreciated, but not under-heard brass and percussion sections. Composed in 1942 at the height of wartime patriotism, it echoes themes of freedom and Americana with a back and forth duet between the trumpets and horns. Despite my allegiance to strings, I sincerely appreciate the tone and color that can only be emulated with brass.
After attending last year's concerto concert, I noted that the orchestra's performance of Smetana’s “Die Moldau” was lacking significant presence in the upper strings, particularly the violin section. However, after Johann Stamitz’s “Sinfonia in G major” at this year’s concert I would have to commend the orchestra on the clarity and balance of the string section. I was happy at my surprise.
Traditionally I have not been a fan of Dr. Dennis Friesen-Carper’s choices when it comes to contemporary music. I often find them an awkward combination of vagueness, strangeness and lack of melody. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed Václav Nelhýbel’s “Music for Orchestra.”I found myself drawn in and mesmerized by the unique piece. It reminded me a lot of the the cinema work produced by Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer, which I thoroughly enjoy. I also have to say how amazing a stopped horn sounds. Truly spine tingling.
I heard from members of the orchestra regarding the significant difficulty of the repertoire and the amount of practice needed. In particular, the accompaniment to the concertos was challenging as were the solos themselves. As someone with knowledge of classical music and orchestras, I am probably more adept at hearing small issues than most of the audience, yet there was nothing that really stood out to me at Saturday’s concert. The orchestra performed brilliantly and DFC’s direction and attention to detail was as evident as always. There was a lot of work put in, and it truly showed. The symphony orchestra deserves more recognition than they receive.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.