LSO kicks off the year in Shakespearian fashion

Justin Jones

Editor’s note: Lawrence’s choirs also performed an impressive concert last weekend, but none of our writers could make it. We apologize for the lack of coverage of that concert.After graduating 39 of its players last spring, the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra had some rebuilding to do. They got to revel in the fruits of their labor Saturday, Oct. 16. Performing two interpretations of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” – one by Prokofiev, the other from Tchaikovsky – and closing out the show with a rendition of Copland’s “Hoe-Down,” this essentially new orchestra played with verve and tenacity.
Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies David Becker matched his player’s energy measure for measure, as did Professor of Theatre Arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama Timothy X. Troy and his wife Jacque Troy, who read excerpts from Shakespeare’s play, a unique touch that provided a concrete framework for the evening’s powerful music.
The pair opened the show with a recitation of the prologue to “Romeo and Juliet” and a few other excerpts developing the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, the subject of the first selection from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
Though the excerpts were well read, Timothy and Jacque Troy seemed to have different approaches to the text at hand. Timothy Troy seemed more involved with each character he portrayed, whereas his wife typically assumed a more narrative role. However, Jacque Troy did become more involved with characterization at certain moments, especially when portraying Juliet.
The selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” were, for me, hit-and-miss.
Though the orchestra’s playing was consistently artful, some of the sections simply lacked liveliness. Beginning with a rendition of “The Montagues and Capulets” theme, with its sinister opening dissonance and foreboding, march-like motif, made the pieces that followed it seem too dainty. “Juliet, The Young Girl” felt a bit hesitant in comparison.
The “Friar Laurence” theme coalesced well with the reading that preceded it, keeping with the innocent tone established by Timothy Troy. The next section, “Romeo at Juliet’s Before Parting” was, again, lacking in vivacity but dabbled in a wide emotional palette. Finally, the concluding movement, “Romeo at Juliet’s Grave,” was elegant and rather moving and showed off the orchestra’s warm, resonant blend.
Then, Timothy and Jacque Troy performed a montage of various scenes from “Romeo and Juliet,” mostly from the better-known portions of the play. This established a broader perspective for Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy,” which came next.
Though the infamous love theme was well played, the orchestra, yet again, seemed more animated during the overture’s darker sections. Though Becker was relatively conservative in terms of dynamics throughout most of the evening, he let loose an unabashed fortissimo at the climax of Tchaikovsky’s interpretation of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. It was a moment of striking gravity.
The performance of “Hoe-Down” that followed was just as lively, and perhaps even faster than it had been performed at Kaleidoscope. However, the chapel’s intimacy allowed for a better appreciation of the more subtle aspects of Copland’s composition, allowing the orchestra to convey the Americana feel of the piece.
In the words of Becker, the LSO is just beginning to “rebuild.with the outstanding upperclassmen and new freshmen musicians.” Yet, the quality of their performance Saturday night was not that of a “new orchestra,” a sentiment echoed by the thunderous standing ovation and the satisfaction on each of the players’ face.