LSO triumphs over Packers game

Justin Jones

Though students at a small liberal arts college may not seem to be the likeliest of football fans, when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, Lawrentians are serious. Within hours of the announcement that the Packers would be playing the Bears for a chance at the Super Bowl, Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies David Becker had already received “numerous emails from students [and] faculty” regarding the LSO concert that was then scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., right in the middle of the game.
Realizing that the game would most likely diminish the concert’s attendance, Becker decided to reschedule the program for 12:30 p.m. “I’m a bit more realistic than strictly arty,” he confided.
Yet little sense of realism prevailed in the orchestra’s delightfully dreamy concert on Sunday afternoon.
Things began with a well-restrained performance of the overture from Rossini’s “La Cenerentola.” The orchestra’s playful rendition of the well-known piece served as an excellent introduction and a contrast to the rather heavy numbers to follow.
The LSO clearly understood the comic intent of the piece, never failing to accent Rossini’s musical punch lines. Furthermore, the overture’s impish undertones served to foreshadow the somewhat mischievous music to come.
Poulenc’s “Concerto for Two Pianos,” which followed, was consistently surprising. Featuring pianists Dario LaPoma and Hazim Suhadi, the piece was full of a spritely ambiguity, at once playful and haunting.
Though the orchestra seemed timid during the first movement – which made some of the abrupt changes in mood sound like stuttering – they sounded right at home in the lush ambivalence of the second movement, blending beautifully with the soloists in Poulenc’s wistful dream.
The concert continued with a presentation by Associate Professor of Music and Teacher of French Horn James DeCorsey. An expert on British composers, it was DeCorsey who suggested that the orchestra perform the afternoon’s final piece, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “A London Symphony.”
DeCorsey’s commentary, especially the historical context he provided, was light-hearted and informative, with a number of humorous allusions to the football game to take place that afternoon. DeCorsey explained that geographic limitations had long been placed on the music of Vaughan Williams, who is traditionally considered a quintessentially English composer.
However, the LSO largely succeeded in transcending any aesthetic or geographical boundaries. In fact, the piece seemed almost the most familiar of the three; this makes sense considering the huge number of film composers that have borrowed from the sprawling, evocative melodies of “A London Symphony.”
The orchestra also seemed rather conscious of the piece’s roots in English folk music, often understating sections in order to suggest the music’s more simplistic foundation.
As a whole, the concert was not only the most inspired pre-game show I’ve ever witnessed, it was also an excellent opportunity for everyone involved to perform a variety of essential orchestral repertoire, which “is a major part of the LSO curriculum” according to Becker.
And though Becker didn’t choose to have his musicians wear Packers shirts or to sell brats at the concert as some had suggested, he certainly conducted his players with a playful, spirited grace, giving the afternoon’s music all the verve it rightfully deserved.

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