Orchestral beauty enthralls
The Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra kicked off its season Friday, filling Old Cabell auditorium with its production, “A Musical Kaleidoscope.” Parents in town for Family Weekend and members of the Charlottesville community dominated the crowd, filling the auditorium with an eager and engaged audience. Admittedly a novice to instrumental art, I was intrigued with the powerful and well-thought-out program.
Entering its 39th season, the orchestra has been bringing symphonic joy to audiences for decades — offering what the brochure boasts is “the highest quality symphonic music and educational experiences” found in the central Virginia area.
Friday’s performance took the audience back to the 19th century and incorporated works from all parts of Europe. The concert began with the Overture to “Rienzi,” starting off with a single trumpet call and swelling into a melodic, brooding crescendo to the finale. The piece, written by German opera composer Richard Wagner, proved enchanting, yet almost eerie. This 12-minute overture built like an exciting battle, keeping audience members on the edge of their seats.
The concert then transitioned into the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in B minor, Opus 61 — allegro non troppo, andantino quasi allegretto and molto-moderato e maestoso. For those of you who do not speak orchestra, these Italian words seek to describe the tempo and mood of the movements. Composed by Camille Saint-Saëns, Opus 61 began fast-paced and energetic, then slowly moved to a more moderate speed. Violin soloist Daniel Sender, the orchestra’s concertmaster, played a captivating solo that left all in awe.
Post intermission, the symphony resumed, stronger than before with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor — allegro moderato and andante con moto. In other words, moderately fast and at walking pace. This piece, less lively than the first two, showed a slower side of the orchestra, with a sound reverberating through the auditorium. This piece, commonly referred to as the “unfinished symphony,” is only composed of two movements, as opposed to the standard three. What it lacks in length, however, it more than makes up for in melody and pure romanticism.
The orchestra finished out the show with Franz von Suppé’s Overture to “The Beautiful Galatea.” This, by far, was the greatest movement of the night. Whether you like the symphony or not, the overture is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, energetic and dynamic pieces around. It begins with a bang of loud, vibrant harmony, then moves to a softer slower sound, until suddenly the music builds again to a beautifully melodic crescendo.
Even an orchestra novice can find joy in a performance as cleanly executed as this one — though I caution against coming even remotely tired, as it requires an alert and awake audience member to get the most out of the performance.