Visions and feelings of summer came alive in the University Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition Winner Showcase Concert last week on campus. With over 40 musicians hailing from North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead and the community, this concert came with a certain amount of excellence and talent that worked perfectly to serve up its musical offerings.
Headed by orchestra director Dr. Christina Chen-Beyers, the University Symphony Orchestra featured three soloists in its first half. Zhanna Ricks, a Belarusian music teacher and NDSU School of Music graduate student, opened up the concert with a lighthearted aria that fluttered, giggled and resonated with a rich bottomlessness about her lover.
She was followed by NDSU music education major Erika Berger, who performed Mozart’s “Horn Concerto in E-flat Major” on her French horn. This piece had all the hallmarks of a seaside jaunt, riding horses down along the beach in the surf in a stately way. Clarinetist and NDSU music education major Zachery Pavlicek succeeded Berger with his clarinet concerto.
With the orchestra warming the song up for several minutes before he burst in with his fluttery clarinet, Pavlicek’s piece was sweet and lush and reminiscent of a cloud journeying across varying landscapes, from high sierras to rocky shorelines to still deserts.
An intermission marked the break between the soloists and the orchestra’s main arrangement — three movements from Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8 in G Major.” Written at his summer home, this piece exuded the sentiments of the season, with Chen-Beyers remarking, “I would like for you to imagine whatever you do in summer,” adding, “It’s coming!”
She then dived into conducting the 45-piece orchestra through the three movements with much gusto and clear enjoyment. “Allegro con brio” brought out the weather of summer, with wind, sun and mist all springing to life from the strings and winds. Flowers opened, birds chirped, storms raged, but the sun always came out in the breaks between bad weather.
“Allegretto grazioso” followed as the second movement, and this piece began by creating visions of mosquito eggs hatching before breaking into a run through the forest. Adventures in woodland waters highlighted this movement, and before it was all over, the bold strings and winds had frolicked on many hillsides and paddled around many a pond.
The concerto came to an end with “Allegro ma non troppo.” The warm and inviting pleasures of a party romped and raved in this piece, with much twirling and dancing. A mellow mood preceded a mortar shell of dance, capping off an active movement that was clearly sheer enjoyment for all involved.
For a little over an hour, the University Symphony Orchestra kept its audience’s minds on the season and weather we can look forward to. As a pleasant diversion for one night in winter, this showcase concert served a fine purpose.
The University Symphony Orchestra Concerto/Aria Concert was on Mar. 6 in Festival Concert Hall.