Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. as the lights dimmed at the Staller Center for the Arts, the University Orchestra’s conductor Susan Deaver led the group in the Music From Around the World performance that would soon captivate their audience. The performance proved the theme of the night through musical selections reaching across the globe from Russia, England, America, Norway, China and Argentina. The University’s Annual Family Concert brought all ages and backgrounds to listen to a fantastic musical performance.
To open the concert, the orchestra played Mikhail Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmila Overture.” Its fast tempo immediately captured the audience’s attention; the melodic runs produced by the violin section easily dominated the listener’s ear. At the close of the piece the orchestra’s conductor turned to face the audience, beaming with excitement and pride in her work. She then introduced the rest of the night’s pieces and expressed her love for the program. Excited for the rest of the program, the audience listened intently for the next song.
Peter Winkler, a professor of composition, theory and popular music at Stony Brook University, performed along with the orchestra. In his portion of the show he narrated Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” This piece was written to expose children to orchestral instruments and hopefully plant a seed of appreciation for music in their lives. As Winkler read facts about each instrument, the respective section of the orchestra would play a musical phrase highlighting their instrument and its greater role within the rest of the ensemble. Through the addition of dialogue, each instrument came alive with personality and distinct characteristics. When asked what it was like working with college students, Winkler said, “The joy of working with young artists is their energy and enthusiasm,” proving that the students of the University Orchestra infuse a sense of vibrancy and passion in their music that is hard to find elsewhere. Winkler, along with the orchestra, succeeded in their pursuit of reaching a youthful audience; many young children sat wide-eyed in their seats extending their necks to see which section was playing next.
Before long, four clarinetists took the audience back across the pond to the United States for Leroy Anderson’s “Clarinet Candy.” The short piece highlighted the talent of the clarinet players, who masterfully flew through the challenging music. The lively atmosphere created by their performance prompted a roaring round of applause.
The highly anticipated moment of the night approached as Eugene Iovine, III took the stage. The accomplished 17-year-old musician won the 2013 Pre-College Concerto Competition which brought him to the stage to play “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor, Op.16” by Norway’s Edvard Greig. Despite Iovine’s immense and obvious skill he was surprisingly humble and approachable. Iovine was originally told to play piano by his mother but continued on when he realized his appreciation for the instrument. He especially enjoyed “the piano’s ability to play multiple lines of music at once” and later added that he liked the “swagger of a piano” in its stage appearance, a phrase that reminds one that he is still a teenager. As he played the concerto his fingers moved over the keys with emotion and conviction, selling every note to the listener.
Next, the orchestra took its listeners on a trip to China through Zhedong Zhang, a graduate student and traditional Chinese flute player. As Zhang played “Journey to Suzhou,” the orchestra accented the foreign sounds of the traditional Chinese flute. The audience was clearly enthralled by an instrument that was unfamiliar to many. Zhang beautifully finished his piece. Although Zhang majors in physics, he practices one to two hours a day when he gets the chance. His dedication is apparent.
Deaver concluded the program by inviting the audience to dance in the aisles to the next selection. The orchestra then broke into a fun and upbeat Argentinian piece, “Danza Finale from Estancia” by Alberto Ginastera. As the final applause for the University Orchestra ended the audience happily stood up and rushed to greet loved ones after their performance. The Music from Around the World Concert successfully touched the ears and hearts of many.