Conservatory Chamber Orchestra rocks White Recital Hall

Mal Hartigan

The cellos performed energetically during ‘Jeu des cartes.’
The cellos performed energetically during ‘Jeu des cartes.’

The White Recital Hall was teeming with vibrant new sounds compared to the previous weeks as the ensemble series continued with the Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, featuring Robert Olson as the musical director and conductor. Olson is well-revered for his musical contributions around the globe, including guest-conducting in countries such as China, Europe and South America. He was also the conductor for the Kansas City Ballet for 14 years. During his reign as conductor there, he headed more than 600 performances. In 1990, he brought his talents to UMKC as he became a part of the faculty.

Having such a prestigious figure present last Wednesday evening ensured expert performance with a vast array of talents, including instruments not often seen in smaller ensembles, such as the timpani, bass drum and bass trombone. The entire orchestra, however, contained a well-rounded cast of string instruments: first violins, second violins, violas, cellos, and one lone bass, played by Noah McNair. The woodwinds consisted of flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoons. The brass featured trumpets, French horns, trombones, Russell Zokaites on bass trombone, and William A. Faber on tuba. The percussion included the aforementioned instruments.

The springs perform under conductor Parinya Chucherdwatanasak’s direction.
The springs perform under conductor Parinya Chucherdwatanasak’s direction.

The first piece, “Symphony No. 92 in G Major,” was rather lengthy, divided into four different movements. The second movement, “Adagio cantabile,” was languid and exemplified the orchestra’s expert dynamics, but quickly picked up the pace. All of the movements contained legato and pianissimo sections, as well as forte and staccato sections in order to demonstrate the orchestra’s versatility and ability to blend together. This piece didn’t include every orchestra member in each section.

An intermission followed “Symphony No. 92 in G Major,” which was the longest piece, and then the concert continued with “Serenade for Strings in E Minor,” directed by graduate conductor Parinya Chucherdwatanasak. As the name implies, this piece only featured the string instruments, which skillfully showed their dynamics. Most sections were in the piano range; softer, but still energetic. This three-movement piece was a perfect demonstration of the strings’ musical ability, especially the aptitude to play softly but still sound well-rounded with deeper strings sounds on the cello and bass.

The last song of the evening featured all of the orchestra’s instruments, including the brass and woodwinds. “Jeu des cartes,”also known as “Game of Cards,” is a three-movement piece composed by Igor Stravinsky for his 1937 ballet. Olson conducted this piece and about Stravinsky’s ballet and his influences, as well as famous Beethoven and other composer’s lines threaded throughout the piece. “There’s even a walking bass line at the end,” Olson said about the piece before the orchestra began performing.

All three movements contained an explicit sense of energy; the French horns worked closely with the bassoons and the bass trombone with the tuba in order to create a whole sound during unison sections, topped off with Spencer Jones on the timpani and several loud booms on the bass drum. There were moments when the strings would cease in order to highlight a brass feature, which showcased warm, elegant tones. It was an excellent song to reiterate the orchestra’s prowess before concluding the evening.

If you’d like to take part in the next upcoming conservatory event, visit www.conservatory.umkc.edu for further information about future performances.

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