Time Travel, MITSO Style
A Trip Through Modern, Classical, and RomanticBy Pey-Hua Hwang
MIT Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, December 8, 2001
The MITSO concert on Saturday, in a half filled Kresge auditorium, featured music which ranged from modern to classical to romantic. It opened with a modern piece called Jubal, by Peter Child. It was a relatively short piece, but it was executed with enthusiasm. Several points in the piece seemed a bit disjointed, and the ending seemed rather abrupt. However, this feeling of being left hanging without proper resolution at the end might have been the intention of the modern piece. It was greeted with great applause at its conclusion and Child made his way to the front of the auditorium, shook Director Anzolini’s hand, and acknowledged both the orchestra and audience with a smile.
After this foray into modern classical music Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 495 balanced out the first half of the concert. Jean Rife, an MIT lecturer, was the soloist. Technically speaking, the piece played well, however, it lacked some of the lightness and frivolity necessary to truly capture the spirit of Mozart. Rife also had some rather impressive trills; however, some of the other notes seemed a tad bit brassy sounding for the context. When the piece concluded, Rife left the stage twice and returned for a total of three bows.
After the intermission, MITSO switched time periods again and played two pieces by Brahms. For the first piece, the MIT Concert Choir joined MITSO in a performance of Brahms’ Shicksalslied (Song of Destiny) Opus 54. This piece evoked contrasting sections of peace and tension. The conclusion was particularly well done, however the piece tended to be rather top heavy. By top heavy, I mean that it had overpowering volume from instruments with high notes such as the violins and flutes while the lower instruments such as the bass and cellos that should have provided grounding for the piece were not given proper attention.
The concert concluded with Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F, Opus 90. This piece was also technically solid, but didn’t bring out the dark overtones present in Brahms. Many of the secondary melodies that are intrinsic to the complex melodies were buried in the swell of the first violins. The first and second movements contrasted well with each other in tempo, but neither seemed to carry much weight in the mood. The playing seemed rather contrived and lacking in emotional power. Emotion, however, definitely was exhibited in the third movement, which was the definite highlight of the piece. It began in the lower register of all the instruments and built to a powerful climax with timpani at full throttle and the string players all moving to the intensity of the music. The fourth movement, “Allegro,” could have been even more exciting; however, it lacked the proper dynamic contrast was played a bit under-tempo and was therefore rather anticlimactic.
Throughout the concert, there were many nice ensemble moments scattered amongst the tutti sections and the choice of music featured a nice variety of styles. Thus, for a college orchestra where most if not all the members are not music majors, the performance made for a pleasant albeit not life-altering evening of orchestral music.