April 27, 2012
Concert explores universal truthsThe Susquehanna Orchestra will perform their final concert of the semester on Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. in Weber Chapel.
"At our concert, the audience will be inspired to think about universal truths," said Jennifer Sacher Wiley, associate professor of music and orchestra director.
The concert will feature the concerto winners of the Concerto/Aria Competition that took place on Nov. 8: senior bassoon player Tyler Austin and sophomore piano player Melissa Lee. Wiley said that the orchestra started working on the program in November and described the concert as a "celebration of student achievement."
The program will feature three pieces: German composer Carl Maria von Weber's "Andante and Rondo Ungarese, Op. 35," Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16" and English composer Gustav Holst's "The Planets, Op. 32." These pieces were written at varying points in the Romantic era, progressing from early Romantic to late Romantic respectively, offering a wide range of sound, technique and influence.
Accompanying the orchestra, Austin will be featured on bassoon for the first piece with Lee on piano for the second piece. "The Planets" will feature the orchestra with vocals from the women of the SU Chorale under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Colin Armstrong.
"'The Planets' is the most exciting [piece]. It's challenging on a musical, emotional and technical level. It's fun and gratifying to witness the students developing through this piece," Wiley said.
The piece features seven movements, each one based on one of the Roman gods the planets are named after. The way each movement is performed offers a different characterization of the gods their corresponding planets.
Austin said, "The orchestra uses some interesting instrument combinations such as two harps, a bass oboe in the oboe section and an organ to give the piece a lot of different characters and colors."
Lee said that the piece is the "big, triumphant finale" and has a lot of movement between instruments. She added: "The concert is a team project. We're working together to convey ideas by taking turns or sharing a role in some of the pieces."
While Lee said that she liked "The Planets," she said that her favorite piece was the piano concerto because of its melodic lines and direction.
"The orchestra and piano take turns during the piece. It's all down to me to present huge cords and expand on the central idea in a huge dramatic format," she said. "The big flourish in the beginning takes up a wide range and, while a lot of people may be familiar with it since it's used in a lot of movies and TV shows, [the audience] can learn more by listening to it and feeling the emotions the composer conveys."
Wiley said that live music has "the same advantages of having a conversation with a friend face-to-face or attending a football game instead of watching it on TV. It's a real experience. The immediacy and the emotionality are palpable."
For the concerto winners, the orchestra concert offered them many opportunities. Lee said it is an opportunity for her to become more comfortable in front of an audience and to work alongside other musicians and learn more musical styles.
"It's a big finish for my sophomore year...Dr. Niskala has been really pushing me. I wasn't expecting this opportunity until next year so it was a nice surprise," Lee added.
This will be Austin's last performance at Susquehanna as an undergraduate. He said, "The chance to perform a concerto with my colleagues and friends is a fantastic way to end my time at the university."
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