Symphony orchestra takes stage
Annette Sayre | Tuesday, February 25, 2014
After nearly 30 hours of dedicated practice and concentrated application, the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra graced the stage of the Leighton Concert Hall last Friday night to perform in their annual Winter Concert. The first half of the concert featured Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” and Mozart’s “Flute Concerto No. 2,” followed by Mendelssohn’s vibrant overture for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” These classic pieces were succeeded by Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3” in the second half.
The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra’s performance was inspiring, and the orchestra itself a representation of seamless collaboration and unanimity. Each person was visibly and audibly attuned to the sound they were producing as well as that of the orchestra as a whole, resulting in a harmony that displayed the talent of the performers while honoring the composers of these pieces. The program kept everyone in the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats for two hours, beginning with Mendelssohn’s riveting piano concerto.
The concert opened with pianist Alyssa Varsanik in sparkling gold sequins, who took the stage to play the concerto that made her one of the winners of the orchestra’s Concerto Competition in November of last year. The elegance and precision with which she delivered her emotional performance seemed remarkably effortless, and the orchestra accompanied Ms. Varsanik with great energy and exactness.
The piano concerto was followed by an equally passionate performance of Mozart’s flute concerto, performed by Jessica Meaux, the other winner of the orchestra’s 2013 Concerto Competition. Her delicate yet buoyant touch allowed for incredibly precise and fluid trills that made her performance breathtaking.
Mendelssohn’s overture for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Beethoven’s symphony performed by the orchestra followed these fabulous solo performances. These two pieces were selected for the concert because they are two of the most famous symphonies of the entire symphony repertory. In the words of the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra director Daniel Stowe, “They are meant to be experienced as monuments of symphonic music.”
Additionally, both of these pieces have interesting background stories. Mendelssohn’s reputable overture has an explicit story behind it, as it is a musical representation of Shakespeare’s renowned play, and was composed when he was just 17 years old.
“Symphony No. 3,” also called “Eroica,” has historical context, as it was written by Beethoven during a period of personal crisis. Beethoven’s piece was a good choice for the concert because of the rhythmic vitality and playfulness present throughout. The piece raises expectations in the listener and then turns them aside, described by Stowe as being “like a roller coaster ride in the dark — you don’t know what’s coming.”
The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra’s performance on Friday night was truly phenomenal, from the passionate performances of the soloists, to the orchestra’s incredible vibrancy and accuracy throughout each piece. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I would highly encourage attending the orchestra’s Spring Concert on April 11 at 8 p.m. in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, especially if you have never been to a performance before.
“It’s amazing. It’s always remarkable to me the extraordinary gifts of the students here,” Stowe said.
“I think it’s always great for us to get a chance to share this with the campus. It will be worth the trek down to DPAC to come hear us.”