For the first time in my short UCSB career, I played to a packed house at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. That’s right, 400+ seats, all FULL! The music department powers-that-be decided to offer free admission to all UCSB students to our music department student performances and recitals this year. It’s really made a huge difference. Last year, the hall was no more than two-thirds full for our first chamber orchestra concert.
Our first concert of the year is usually the best attended due to freshman parents looking for any desperate excuse to see their children. Then the parents get lazy, and subsequent shows fill only half the hall. It was really exciting for us to hear so much applause, so I hope people keep coming. The classics aren’t really such an easy sell to kids raised on rap — which includes most of my friends. If you tell them they have to pay ten dollars, then they stay home and write that nasty paper they’ve been dreading. But once they come and hear a piece they like, they keep coming back.
The show started with Maurice Ravel’s Chansons Madécasses, a study of the poetry of Evariste-Désiré de Parny commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. It’s pretty startling in places, even for those who don’t speak French. A very passionate piece. Molly Clementz, one of our graduate students in voice definitely did it justice. She reminded the audience that the voice is truly an instrument in its own right, not just a pretty thing that floats a story on top of the “real” instruments. Karen Yeh played cello with patient grace, dancing in step with pianist Felix Eisenhauer and Adriane Hill on the flute. The flute seems to be a challenging part; it accents the passion of the other parts, tying everything together for the audience.
Next, my studio mates Camden Boyle and Thérèse Brown joined pianist Maansi Desai in the first movement of Moritz Moszkowski’s Suite in G Minor for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 71. Their appealing interpretation gently allowed the audience to relax and let the music flow. It’s the sort of chamber piece that can fail if there is any kind of competition between the artists for the audience ear. It’s got a very delicate balance between parts, and it reminds me to be thankful that I’m in a violin studio with no gigantic egos. It’s the nicest thing about our department, in fact, that we all want each other to succeed.
We were then treated to Quatuor for Flute, by Pierre-Max Dubois. The quartet was actually a quintet including Rachel Ricard, Azeem Ward, Sylvie Tran, Catherine Marshall, and Adriane Hill. It was a really tight piece with cleverly woven harmonies. The audience clapped after the first movement, but had that completely trained out of them, and remained silent after the second and third. I don’t know how that happened, or why, I guess it was magic.
Finally we heard the UCSB graduate Young Artist Piano Quartet play the first movement from Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 15. My friends all reported liking it. The YAPQ is taking the place of the YASQ this year as the school’s graduate scholarship ensemble. Hopefully they will represent us well, winning international prizes and bringing glory and acclaim to the department. (No pressure, guys). I will link to their website when they have one up. The group includes Youjin Jung on violin, Jordan Warmath on viola, Larissa Fedoryka on cello, and pianist Leslie Cain.
After a brief intermission for restaging (meaning no cookies were served), the Chamber Orchestra took the stage. I was later told that there were people who were unable to find seats for the first part of the show that were seated for the second half. This leads me to believe that some people must have left at intermission. So how crazy is that?
We played Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor and finished with Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. Both pieces are showy and traditional; they make the audience feel like they are at a party. Some of us in the orchestra had long drives returning from the holiday that morning or the night before, and others are just hitting the post-midterm-catch-up with-everything-before-finals phase of the quarter. So it was nice to see that everyone was able to pull up their energy levels for the show. In my experience the first show of the season is usually not the best of the year. But given how good the first show was, I’d say we are definitely setting the bar even higher this year than last, which makes me very happy.Views: 1328