Stony Brook University Symphony Orchestra captivated its audience on Feb. 22 with a triumphant performance. The musicians took their seats and primed their instruments. While everyone played their own part, there was still a whisper of unity.
Even though they hadn’t officially started, there was a heightened feeling of expectation amongst the crowd. The Staller Center for the Arts’ Recital Hall was packed but the audience sat, waiting in anticipation.
From the moment the orchestra began their performance, and the cellos grew into a mysterious melody, your imagination is transported to the middle of a decrepit mansion. Cobwebs adorned every dark corner, and dust particles rode the piercing moonbeams. All seven pieces had varying themes such as fear, adventure, love and courage — each just as vivid as the last.
The violins sneak in, ominously. A fireplace was ignited as you passed the empty study. The tone was dark and scary, yet there was a touch of hope hiding in the atmosphere. Just as you start to feel confident, the violins swole, keeping you sustained in the gripping mystery and not giving you the release of tension you want.
The music swung open and released its grip onto you. You’re outside of the mansion, caught in a mist. An unexpected series of plucks from the harp reminded the audience that they were not yet safe. The french horn added a vein of confusion. Lost in the fog, a clammer to find freedom. The music slowly starts to crescendo; the louder it got, the greater the fear crept back in. There was something in the woods and it searched for its victim.
The piano then accompanied all of these new instruments in the third act of this piece, emboldened by the violin. A sense of peace washed over the listeners, but the undertone of tension did not let go. This dance decrescendoed until nothing was left but ghost notes resonating in the air. Then one final hit of music and the dark tones left the crowd breathless and still.
No one moved. They couldn’t clap. Everyone is caught in a grip of tension from the journey they had just been on. Respect and reverence hovered over the crowd that did not break.
The first piece, “Nocturne: Moderato” by Dmitri Shostakovich, was over. Six more to go.
“This was written at the tail end of WWII. Their consistent presence of terror is a direct reflection of society’s experience during this time …” said David Harrison, an audience member and cellist who has played this piece before.
Maia Kelly, second year Masters candidate in violin performance, described her final performance before graduating with her masters this semester.
“Most of my experiences have been with male conductors,” she said. “Playing music composed by Amy Beech and conducted by Michelle Merrill, as well as sharing the stage with an incredible female soloist Yezu Woo who played the violin on the Shostakovich violin concerto was so empowering.”
Kelly said that it has been amazing to play with this orchestra and will miss them greatly.
Woo had complete command of the stage during her solo performance. Her bow was a paintbrush, her violin a canvas, and she painted a tapestry with frisson-inducing colors and hues. With each stroke she decorated the stage with metaphorical paint until the room was a blanketed canvas, showcasing a master’s work.
A balanced diet is necessary for a healthy body and our ears deserve the same treatment, and there is no more convenient and valuable palate cleanser than the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra.