The Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, above, performed last semester to make up for a canceled concert. French horn player Amr Selim was the featured  performer. KYSTEN MASSA / THE STATESMAN
The Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, above, performed last semester to make up for a canceled concert. French horn player Amr Selim was the featured performer. KRYSTEN MASSA / THE STATESMAN

It was a night of Beethoven and Bach when the Staller Center welcomed the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, March 28, on the Staller Center’s Main Stage at 8 p.m..

The symphony was conducted by Eduardo Leandro, a Stony Brook percussion professor and the artistic director of its new music ensemble. The program featured Ray Furuta, an internationally-famous flutist and winner of the 2015 Graduate Concerto Competition, as well as a revised original work written by Stony Brook Professor Emeritus Peter Winkler.

Even before the concert started, there was an eagerness among the crowd to hear the talents of Futura and Winkler. The Main Stage theater was filled almost entirely, excluding a few single, straggling seats. Staller sold around 1,000 of the 1,050 seats available for the show, almost completely selling out.

The orchestra was set to perform Beethoven’s “Leonore Overture No. 3,” C.P.E. Bach’s “Flute Concerto in D Minor” and a concerto with Furuta and Winkler’s symphony.

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Just past 8 p.m., the lights in the center dropped, leaving only the soft, yellow light illuminating the stage below. A hush grew over the crowd and everybody sat back in their seats, silent and waiting.

The orchestra began tuning its instruments, creating the illusion of a live beehive, a disorganized but beautiful hum of strings. Each player was like a bee, contributing to the collective buzz growing from the stage.

Luke Balslov, a trumpeter in the orchestra, and Christopher Matthews, a flutist, both commented on how they loved the Beethoven piece the most. Matthews described the piece as “extremely upbeat,” while Balslov said he loved the piece for its great opener, as well as its trumpet solo.

Followed by Beethoven and Bach, Furuta performed a featured solo with the orchestra. Even at his young age, Furuta accomplished a lot with his talent. He is the artistic director and founder of the Silicon Valley Music Festival in San Jose, California, and was named a Cultural Ambassador for the United States by Sister Cities International.

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Furuta says he is grateful for all the experiences and opportunities he was given, specifically his family for being there for him and supporting him as he traveled internationally.

“Going out of the U.S. to perform is an incredible experience,” Furuta said. “These experiences, just as any, help us to broaden our horizons and grow exponentially. As artists, it is important for us to seek out these types of experiences.”

Furuta said he learned plenty here with the Stony Brook Orchestra as well. Because the concerto performed during the show lacked a conductor, Furuta said it was much different experience.

“My leadership skills were challenged and incredibly heightened,” Furuta said. “This is priceless skill as a musician and I am so glad to have gotten the opportunity to perform the concerto in the ‘orpheus’ styled format.”

Along with the excitement of hearing Winkler’s new symphony, Furuta was a huge reason for the show’s large attendance.

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“I was particularly excited to see a flute concerto, those are rarely performed by symphony orchestra let alone university bands,” said Admad Malki, a junior double major in political science and astronomy who attended the show. “Mr. Furuta displayed an exceptional level of emotion and enthusiasm in his performance.”

After intermission, the wait to hear Winkler’s revised and refurbished symphony was finally over.

Winkler’s symphony premiered in 1979 during the grand opening of the Staller Center, then called the Fine Arts Center. Winkler originally wrote the piece in celebration of his friend David Lawton, artistic director of the Stony Brook Opera. 

After retiring from Stony Brook’s music department in 2014, Winkler began making revisions to his symphony.

In defiance of the tradition of not having anybody speak during a concert, Leandro brought Winkler up on stage before the performance of his piece to talk about his revision process.

“It was really a blast to work on,” Winkler said. “Everything is going through different colors, different compositions and eras and forms and ranges.”

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Winkler’s piece really summed up the show in the final movement. The theme of romance and longing can be heard in the use of the slow string melody, as well in the gently consoling sound of the clarinet and oboe.

“It took me seven years to write [the symphony], the person who started it is not the same who ended it,” Winkler said. “As time went on, and towards the last movement, I started writing more Romantic, which is really what I wanted to write. The last movement is really a love scene.”  

At the end of the night, the theme that seemed most noticeable was gratitude. A grateful audience applauded with a standing ovation as the orchestra stood and bowed.

“The show was very well done, with the formalities of classical concerts observed,” Malki said. “I particularly enjoyed the degree of professionalism by a student orchestra. There were almost no musical mistakes, showing how skilled and well-prepared the orchestra was.”

Winkler came on stage as well, smiling and bowing back to the audience with great appreciation.

Furuta was happy with the show as well. Performing is everything to him.

“I live for being on the stage!” Furuta said. “So many emotions, energies and thoughts race through your body while you perform the euphoria is really unprecedented every time you play.”

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