Listening to a live orchestra has an uncharted feeling of excitement. The sound of the instruments tuning up in unison is like the soundtrack to a sun rising above quiet waters. UMKC’s orchestra embraces this sense of levity and liveliness in its performances.
On Jan. 30, UMKC’s Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, directed by Music Professor Robert Olson, performed pieces by composers Haydn, Weismann and Dvorak after just a week of preparation.
The first piece performed was Joseph Haydn’s 1791 work, Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle.” The music joyously jumped around the auditorium, leaping over the seats in a fever of excitement and spectacle.
The symphony was given the nickname “The Miracle” after an incident when a chandelier in the concert hall fell from the ceiling during a performance The audience managed to dodge the falling hulk of crystal and glass, and there were no casualties.
This is a prime example of the power of Haydn’s symphonies. Each second is filled with constant action as the strings cut and slice through the air, working with the woodwinds to build images of silken draped dukes and duchesses waltzing in the gold leaf, sundrenched and cavernous rooms of Versailles in the listener’s mind.
Next, a well-dressed man wielding a shimmering gold French horn entered to the stage. So began Julius Weismann’s “Concerto No. 118″ for horn, a gripping, melodious, almost heroic piece played to a marching beat. It was as if the entire orchestra was about to stand up from the stage and march down the aisles with the French horn in front. Near the end of the piece the sound suddenly expanded, rewarding listeners.
After a brief intermission, the audience was led back in to witness Rebecca Sherburn, Conservatory associate professor of voice, arrive in a sparkling pale blue gown. Composer Paul Creston’s “Nocturne No. 83,” a contemporary and soothing work from 1964, accompanied her voice.
Its sound was more modern than the two pieces before it, giving a relaxed feeling born from New York’s 1960s classical music scene. Sherburn’s voice floated through the air.
Antonin Dvorak’s “Czech Suite” brought the night to a close. It is clear from the first few minutes this composition is about ascension. Every movement works the orchestra harder. The headstrong force of the percussion only adds fuel to the fiery spires of sound the strings produce as they build higher to a cataclysmic climax of intense noise.
Listeners can only experience this raw emotional attachment to music at a live orchestral concert. Bravo, performers.