Conservatory Begins the New Semester

Photo // UMKC

Morayo Bakare

The Conservatory Orchestra performed in its first recital of the semester Friday Sept. 13 with professional conductor Robert Olson and graduate assistant conductor Parinya Chucherdwatanasak. The orchestra presented a marvelous program of classical music comprised of Franz Schubert’s “Overture in D Major,” Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem” and Sergey Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major.” Each piece evoked a different, but powerful opinion on war to the audience, varying from Schubert’s dark beginnings to Britten’s lamentations. concluding with Prokofiev expressing the victory of the human spirit.

Schubert’s “Overture” opened ominously, as the horns resonated deeply with the strings. As the torturous air continued, the instruments increased in sound as if to signal in a dark presence. In the first 40 seconds, the piece appeared to be preparing for a morbid song but suddenly changed its tone to a more cheerful temperament. The woodwinds and strings flowed into a melodic and peaceful tune and the song continued with the resonating feel as it moved away from its deep beginning. The horns injected a majestic sound and carried the orchestra into bursting and powerful moments as the piece progressed. The rest of the orchestra carried the song into a whimsical melody as the horns followed along with loud, uplifting bursts of sound. The overture progressed into an inspiring and forceful finale as all instruments proudly executed their loudest notes. The piece ended with a banging that resonated slowly into silence.

After the first piece, Olson had a brief intermission to describe Britten’s upcoming piece and offered a small explanation of its connection to the first.

“They [Britten’s symphony and Schubert’s Overture] both have a constant theme running through them: that of war,” Olson said.

Britten’s symphony is a requiem for war. He said he originally composed the piece unwittingly for the Japanese government, but they found it to be insulting. He then dedicated the symphony to the memory of his parents.

The symphony is a one movement piece that contains three movements named “Lacrymosa,” “Dies Irae” and “Requiem Aeternam.” These movements continued seamlessly from one to the next without intermission or pause. The first movement began with a strong and loud downbeat from the piano and timpani. Then, as the instruments softened while resonating menacingly in the background, the cello began playing a two-note melody, which became a four-note melody performed by the bassoon. The instruments must play these notes similar to how a siren rings: gradually becoming louder, and then receding to the background, only to become loud again. This theme is repeated in the first movement many times.

In the second movement, an angelic alto saxophone appeared to offer hope and redemption to the listener. The strings sounded like galloping horses as the flutes performed an eerie and creepy unknown tune in the background. There was a consistent juxtaposition of a major chord and its minor counterpart being played one on top of the other throughout the piece. The third part of the symphony returned to the tragedy portrayed by the first movement and ended with a sad pulsing from the orchestra that disappeared slowly into the background.

Written in 1944, the final symphony by Prokofiev consisted of movements dedicated to the human spirit.

“As I listen to this music, I fail to be convinced that it is not heavily influenced by the world war,” Olson said.

The first movement began with a lovely melody played by the bassoon and sounded as if it was highlighting the beauty in life. The tune sounded content until the flute and the bassoon began to take on an angry rhythm.

By the end of the movement, the orchestra was so cacophonous and overwhelming that it is as if the “Nazi army is moving through Moscow,” Olson said.

The second movement opened with a melody from the violins and the clarinet, which played the most important theme in the piece. The theme was fast and melodious. It continued the pace until picking up with dry staccato notes in the middle. The movement built speed and energy and ended as the instruments began to clamor and sounded as if they were falling apart. The third movement was brooding in tone.

It opened with a plain melody performed by the violins and progressed in a sad and ordinary, but beautiful tone. In the middle of the movement, anger could be heard from the orchestra. The plain tune quickly returned and ended happily with the piano. The final movement had a repetitive theme that is introduced by the clarinet each time. A cello quartet then joined and added to the melody. Variations of the theme were performed throughout the movement and it progressed to where the violins seemed to play to the wrong timing. The ending of the piece was both clamorous and quick.

The Conservatory will have two more performances this semester, one with the Conservatory Orchestra again on Friday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. and one with the Conservatory Chamber Orchestra on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is always free with a UMKC student ID.