A sizeable audience awaiting the evening’s performance filled the Lawrence Memorial Chapel on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. As per usual, the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) drew a crowd that ran the gamut of ages and interests—Conservatory students and non-connies alike came to support the group and were rewarded with diverse repertoire and passionate playing.
The theme of the concert was “Classics Old and New” and aptly encapsulated the breadth of the evening’s works. The first piece of the concert, “Schism,” was also the work’s premiere performance. “Schism” was composed by senior viola performance and composition double major Nicolas Bizub in 2014 and made for a dramatic opening.
Andrew Mast, conductor and director of bands and orchestra, welcomed the audience and introduced Bizub as the LSO Orchestral Composition Award winner of 2014. According to Mast, “Schism” is “a piece that deserves many, many, many performances,” and he was visibly proud of the work.
After Mast’s introduction, Bizub took the stage to describe his work. He said that his reason for writing “Schism,” like many of his other works, “is to explore and understand an experience I have had in my own life. For me, music has always really been a language that captures the core of the emotional, human emotional experience.”
The reaction to Bizub’s work was warm and effusive; he received a lengthy standing ovation from those touched by “Schism.” This piece, the explanation of its origins and its performance all comprised an emotional experience that was made all the more poignant by the very vulnerability that engendered it.
When asked about his reaction to the premiere performance, Bizub said, “Saturday’s concert is a moment that I will never forget in my life. It is amazing to me that I am able to share experiences I’ve had in my life through a medium that can so directly impact those who are there to listen.”
Bizub also commented upon the transformative nature of practice, saying “the whole process of watching the piece go from the first rehearsal to performance was such an emotional experience. Now that it has been performed I feel like I can breathe again, but I also feel so much more connected to each musician in the LSO.”
The next portion of the program was devoted to Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” a collection of four movements dedicated to the memory of Ravel’s friends who had died fighting in World War I. Although each movement is reverent of the departed, they seem light; when contemporaries of Ravel inquired about the seemingly incongruous lightness of the pieces, he allegedly replied, “The dead are sad enough in their eternal silence.”
The last piece of the evening was Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67,” which features arguably the most recognizable opening notes of any piece of music. Mast introduced the piece and underscored the challenge of trying to imagine this piece without its fame, as though one were hearing it and playing it for the first time.
Attempting to conceptualize the impact of a work as initially bombastic as this symphony within Beethoven’s time was an intriguing exercise—this work is so well known, but even now, its moments of dynamic shifts from the hushed stringed instruments to swelling, full orchestral lines are nothing short of exhilarating.
This dramatic final piece gained another standing ovation for the LSO and offered a satisfying bookend to their winter concerts.