Last weekend, Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra (LSO) performed their first concert of the year. The Friday, Oct. 16 performance, “Three Masterpieces,” included works by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Gabriel Fauré and Antonín Dvořák. “Three Masterpieces” was the first Lawrence concert conducted by Visiting Director of Orchestral Studies Thom Ritter George. George and the LSO musicians did an excellent job, setting the stage for more great performances this school year.
The first piece performed was “Russian Easter Overture” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which according to the program notes, was “written in inspiration from the sights and sounds of the Orthodox Easter service.” Korsakov was “a member of ‘The Five,’ a group of composers wishing to establish a Russian nationalist musical style.” Many soloists were featured within this composition, including senior violinist Sophie Yang, junior cellist Alex Lessenger, senior trombonist John Morrow, junior clarinetist Daniel Bernstein and super senior flutist Leo Sussman. The soloists did an outstanding job and overall, the tone of the strings was superb.
Afterwards, all four movements of “Pelléas et Mélsande” by Gabriel Fauré were played. The suite was inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s play, also titled Pelléas et Mélsande. While Fauré is “best known for composing in the small forms of songs and chamber music” and “did not like to orchestrate large works, often entrusting the duty to one of his pupils,” the suite that Fauré’s pupil, Charles Kechlin, helped him put together sounded fantastic when played by Lawrence’s orchestra.
The concert was concluded with the four movements of “Symphony No. 8 in G Major” by Antonín Dvořák, who, according to the program notes, was “the greatest Bohemian composer of the late [19th] century.” The first movement, allegro con brio, opened with a lyrical minor movement that included “bird-call-like” sounds in the flute melody, played by super senior Elyse Brotzman. Throughout the piece, the music grew with intensity, leading into the adagio movement. The adagio movement, inspired by tranquil landscapes on a summer’s day interrupted by a thunderstorm, opened with a beautiful clarinet duet played by senior Dylan Younger and junior Daniel Bernstein. The LSO did a wonderful job depicting the different moods within the piece through their intensity and dynamic contrast. Allegretto grazioso, the third movement, included a minor waltz theme and the fourth movement, Allegro ma non troppo, varied widely in its character. The LSO students demonstrated their endurance through this piece, which was over 40 minutes long.
Overall, the concert conducted by George was a great program, consisting of three works that are true masterpieces. After Friday’s performance, students will surely be looking forward to future performances conducted by Dr. George and this year’s orchestra students. If you were unable to attend or are itching for more great music, be sure to check out the next orchestra performance on Saturday, Nov. 14 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel to enjoy works by George Handel and Dmitri Shostakovich.