Academy Orchestras Accompany Selected Student Soloists

With a blend of lightness and tension, the violin, viola and cello wove through the crisp tempo of Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite,” Op. 40 during the Academy Orchestras Concert last Sunday in Cochran Chapel. The concert featured performances by the Academy String Orchestra, the Academy Chamber Orchestra and the Academy Symphony Orchestra.

The Academy String Ensemble opened the concert with a traditional Swedish piece by Bob Lipton entitled “Nordic Waltzes.” The piece is comprised of four sentimental waltzes from the 1700s. Each waltz has a distinct mood and rhythm, including eerie and joyful. Violins, violas and cellos began the performance with soft and sad tones. A few moments later, the piece developed into a more cheerful, strong melody with a rich, collective sound.

“‘Nordic Waltzes’ was chosen because it is a very effective arrangement of the melodies it employs. It was a great opportunity to combine the Academy String Ensemble and the Academy String Orchestra. The arrangement makes for a strong opener because it is fairly uniform throughout and is not too long,” said Christina Landolt, Director of the Academy String Ensemble.

James Orent, Conductor, introduced piano soloists John Gibson ’15 and Bryan McGuiggin ’15, who were selected from a number of students at the beginning of the year for the Senior Concerto soloist competition. Both Gibson and McGuiggin won the chance to perform with either the Academy Symphony Orchestra or the Academy Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Orent.

Gibson played a rendition of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488” along with the Academy Chamber Orchestra. The piece started with string instruments playing a light and airy melody. As clarinets, flutes and a bassoon joined in, the pitch was elevated, and the piece became more rapid and uplifting. Other musicians interjected stronger, darker notes into the playful melody, adding an unexpected contrast to the piece.

“I felt great about the performance,” wrote Gibson in an email to The Phillipian. “The Mozart [concerto] is a phenomenal piece of music, and getting to perform it with an orchestra was a very unique opportunity to explore the music I love. Performing is always exhilarating and even more so with an orchestra. Having more musicians and more moving parts means that the conception of the piece must be more complex, but it also increases the potential for what can be done with the music in terms of sound color, dynamics [and] expressiveness.”

Following his performance, McGuiggin played one of Beethoven’s compositions, “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58,” during the finale alongside the Academy Symphony Orchestra. The performance opened with McGuiggin playing the piano softly and passionately before the Symphony Orchestra joined in, creating a complex and varied tone. The piece featured crescendos and decrescendos as the different instruments seamlessly blended.

“The idea of a concerto is, historically speaking, some kind of musical ‘battle’ between the orchestra and the soloist,” wrote McGuiggin in an email to The Phillipian. “You see this especially if you go back to Vivaldi or Corelli. But, when you get to Beethoven, chronologically speaking, the orchestra and soloist become so intimately tied that both partners are really equally important. A lot of the time, I just got to ride the wave that the orchestra was creating. The excitement there is almost palpable, at least for us players (and, I hope, for the audience, too)!”