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A Night at DPAC

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Monday, February 15, 2010

Friday night, students, parents, children and professors alike trudged through the snow banks and drifts and skated over patches of black ice to make it to the Winter Concert of the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC).
Director Daniel Stowe started off the evening with Felix Mendolssohn’s “Hebrides Overture.”  A trip to Scotland, specifically the Isle of Mull, one of the Hebrides, inspired Mendelssohn to write this elegant overture.  
The orchestra did the wonderful piece justice.  Beginning from the strings of the opening theme to the hushed conclusion, the melodious notes drifted over the audience.  The rising clarinets of the second theme brought more emotion and beauty to the score.  Closing your eyes, while listening to the winds over the soft strings, it was easy to imagine yourself on the breathtaking, hilly Scottish isles, scrambling among the thatched roofs and rushing waterfalls.
From there, the orchestra moved on to Aaron Jay Kernis’s “Air for Violin and Orchestra.”  Kernis originally wrote the piece, a lovely and moving air, for his wife, Evelyne.  The piece began enthusiastically and sonorously, captivating its audience from the onset.  As the air continued, it became more and more passionate, until it tempered into the euphonious solo, played exquisitely by Carolyn Plummer on violin.  After another short burst of passion and zeal, the work slowly ebbed to its conclusion.
The violin solo was a beautiful, central part of the air. Plummer is an associate professor of music at Notre Dame with many impressive achievements to her name, having played in a number of orchestras across the United States, including some in Wyoming and Colorado.  Her solo Friday night was heart-rending in its passion.  It lent even more emotion to an already heartfelt piece, striking cords in the hearts of all its listeners.
After a brief intermission, Stowe concluded his night of beautiful music with Johannes Brahms’s “Symphony no. 2 in D major.”  The immensely popular Second Symphony gained the designation as Brahms’s “Pastoral Symphony,” despite the hints of melancholy found in the piece.  The Notre Dame Orchestra played the famous symphony beautifully.
The first movement began with a beautiful cello piece.  After, the woodwinds and horns harmoniously followed in to create a tuneful movement.  Especially moving was the use of trombones near the end, before the movement ended in what sounded almost like a sigh.  
The second and third movements were simple, yet beautiful.  They combined rising countermelodies of bassoons with woodwind interludes and an oboe theme.  At one point in the third movement, the rhythm closely resembled a country dance, but it worked in the overall simplicity of the movement.
The fourth and final movement provided an excellent ending to the symphony and the concert as well.  A quiet beginning morphed into a rise of energy and spirit.  The intensity only continued to increase with the majestic entrance of the trombones, giving breadth and emotion to the final movement.
The night spent in DPAC with the Symphony Orchestra was extremely enjoyable, both the music and the atmosphere.  DPAC, with its fantastic acoustics and comfortable seats, provided a lovely background for the melodious night of music.