Two extraordinary performances earn audience approval

By Peter Jacobi


Two substantial and revealing works constituted Sunday afternoon’s Indiana University Symphony Orchestra concert in the Musical Arts Center. Conductor David Effron had chosen a pair of number 5s as repertoire: Camille Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto Number 5 in F Major and Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony Number 5 in B-Flat Major.

Both compositions are hefty in content and length. Both are taxing scores and require playing of the highest order. With Maestro Effron in charge on the podium and a remarkable Pillho Bae at the piano as soloist, the results were never in doubt from the very start. One heard two extraordinary performances.

The Fifth was Saint-Saens’ last piano concerto. As with the prior four, it was he who performed the premiere. Fellow Frenchman Hector Berlioz had, years earlier, judged him to be “an absolutely shattering master pianist,” and he must have been, so to tackle concertos that were all, in great measure, designed to exhibit technique.

Well, young Pillho Bae proved on Sunday that he has the makings for a career of prominence. He walked on stage with a stride of confidence, sat himself proudly before the Steinway and dug in. Not only did he master the music’s barrage of scales and chordal runs, but what one heard on listening suggested he might have read the composer’s view that, “The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, by harmonious colors, and by a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music.”

The pyrotechnics were there, as one might expect from a student of Arnaldo Cohen, a whiz at the keyboard, but so was a reach for maturity, so was a finesse needed to fulfill the requirements for the art of this very French composer, and so was, when called for, a welcome warmth of tone.

Conductor Effron made sure that the orchestra complemented the soloist. It really did. And then, after intermission, he led an adroitly integrated performance of Prokofiev’s intricate Fifth Symphony. The work was written while Prokofiev and a host of other Russian composers, Shostakovich and Khachaturian among them, resided at a rest home where the government had sent them to be safe from the dangers of World War Two. He referred to his symphony as a “hymn to the freedom of the human spirit.”

The score is a complex mix of the dark and the light, of sometimes positive lyricism, other times melancholy or agitated expositions, and ultimately jubilant conclusion. The demands are considerable for the best of orchestras. The IU Symphony made one believe it is one of those best. David Effron appears to have made the players believe and — in turn — the players made this listener believe, along with an audience of listeners that roared approval of what they had just heard.

© Herald Times 2015


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Upcoming concert in MAC a sea-worthy trip

By Peter Jacobi


The words of Walt Whitman say: “Behold the sea itself! And on its limitless, heaving breast, the ships: See! where their white sails, bellying in the wind, sparkle the green and blue! See! thy steamers coming and going, steaming in or out of port! See! dusky and undulating, their long pennants of smoke!”

Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams turned to those words for the beginning of his “A Sea Symphony,” an hour-long and compelling work you’ll be able to experience Wednesday evening in the Musical Arts Center, as performed by the Indiana University Oratorio Chorus and Concert Orchestra, led by conductor Betsy Burleigh. Vaughan Williams labored on the symphony for more than six years, and it was he who conducted its premiere at the Leeds Festival in 1910. This was the Brit’s Symphony Number 1, his first, a project that should have been well beyond his means to create, considering he was still in the formative years of his compositional skills.

betsy burleighBut Vaughan Williams dreamed big. It was his desire to rechristen the rich tradition of British choral writing, which he deemed in decline. It was also a way of honoring Walt Whitman, whose poetry he greatly admired. The texts chosen come from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and “Passage to India.” They obviously inspired him for what, in total, in words and music is a spiritual journey. Vaughan Williams used the vastness and mysteries of the sea as metaphor for the human desire, no matter how difficult, to take journeys of self-discovery.

While most other so-called choral symphonies, such as the Beethoven Ninth, limit choral elements to a single movement, “A Sea Symphony” is a true choral symphony, in that it unites chorus and orchestra from start to finish.

Conductor Burleigh explained why she chose “A Sea Symphony” as this season’s big choral work: “I love it and think it’s not performed often enough. Vaughan Williams paints Whitman’s text beautifully, which deals with the largest of concepts. The sea becomes a metaphor for the unanimity of mankind, our place in the universe and in time, the exhilaration of the now and our journey, the journey of the soul into the unknown. As Hubert Parry [British composer and Vaughan Williams’ contemporary] said of the work, ‘This is big stuff, with some impertinences.’ And somehow, this seems perfect for students, of all ages.”

Burleigh said the symphony “has its technical challenges. The third movement, for instance, although the shortest, demands a lot in terms of precision and ensemble. And the balances are tough to get right. This was his first symphony, and he had recently studied in France with Ravel; the orchestration is lush but thick. I also think the fact that it is a choral symphony, a hybrid genre, makes it hard for people to know quite what to do with it or when to program it.”

Asked what difficulties she faced during the preparation period, Burleigh said: “No matter what the repertoire, I think the greatest challenge and the ultimate goal is to unite everyone in expression. That includes the technical unanimity of rhythm and intonation and such, but it also applies to the larger notion of commitment to what the particular music is trying to say. I made it a point to give all the orchestra members a copy of the poetry so they could have a complete picture from the very beginning of what we were trying to do.

“My aspiration for any concert,” Burleigh continued, “is for it to be a moving experience for the listener, to somehow touch the spirit. I suggest that the audience member reads the poetry and listens for the kaleidoscopic way Vaughan Williams sets it. You’ll hear everything from folk songs and sea chanties to Elgarian pomp, to hints of Ravel, even Wagner, and back to English hymn melodies. The musical ideas are as wide-ranging as the poetry, and they are quite effective.”

Burleigh used the pronoun “we” instead of “you” in addressing what the listener should, at the end of the concert, walk away with. “I do mean ‘we,’” she noted. “Ideally, there’s a circular energy that flows to and from the stage. In this particular concert, I hope we’ll all be transported a little closer to that magical, metaphysical realm invoked by Whitman’s words and Vaughan Williams’ music.”

An event awaits us on Wednesday. I, for one, want to feel that circular energy conductor Burleigh spoke of. Will I see you there?

And this afternoon…

As you read this, about 25 Indiana University Jacobs School singers are heading to Indianapolis, to the Hilbert Circle Theater, to perform. They’re among the 35 singers who signed up to compete in the 63rd annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Indiana District Auditions.

Those district auditions used to be here on campus, in the Musical Arts Center. Last year, they were moved to Indianapolis, this to provide a more central location for the competitors. At least, that’s the official reason for the move. An alternative theory making the rounds is that our singers, those from IU, might have gained unfair benefit from singing in a familiar environment.

Whatever the reason, the auditions are in Indianapolis. So, if you want to attend, head up there (45 Monument Circle). The singing starts at 1. And with 35 candidates scheduled to perform, you’ll get a whole lot of opera to enjoy. Several of the 35 contestants will be invited to the second of four steps in the competition, the Central Region auditions in Chicago on Nov. 22.

This afternoon’s event is free.

Contact Peter Jacobi at

If you go

WHAT AND WHO: Choral conductor Betsy Burleigh leads the IU Oratorio Chorus and Concert Orchestra in a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ intriguing and grand Symphony No. 1, called “A Sea Symphony.” The music is set to poems of Walt Whitman.

WHEN: Wednesday evening at 8.

WHERE: Musical Arts Center on the Indiana University Bloomington campus.


© Herald Times 2015

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Jacobs ensembles collaborate for symphony performance

Megan Wilhelm, second-year master's student in the Jacobs School of Music, practices her solo during rehearsal for "Vaughan Williams: 'A Sea Symphony.'" The oratorio Chorus and Concert Orchestra will perform the piece at 8 p.m. today in the Musical Arts Center.

Megan Wilhelm, second-year master’s student in the Jacobs School of Music, practices her solo during rehearsal for “Vaughan Williams: ‘A Sea Symphony.'” The oratorio Chorus and Concert Orchestra will perform the piece at 8 p.m. today in the Musical Arts Center.

By Brooke McAfee

Rows of almost 200 singers singing in unison, a full orchestra and two soloists will perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “A Sea Symphony (Symphony No. 1)” during today’s concert at the Musical Arts Center.

The Oratorio Chorus and the Concert Orchestra will perform at 8 p.m. with baritone soloist Connor Lidell and soprano soloist Megan Wilhelm.

Betsy Burleigh, the chair of the Jacobs School of Music’s choral conducting department, will conduct the performance.

“It’s a great piece of music in that it’s both musically beautiful, and there’s so much to the text,” Burleigh said. “It’s an inspiring piece to be a part of, and I think it is an easy piece for the singers and the players to relate to.”

The Oratorio Chorus is composed of 191 musicians from three different choirs, including the University Singers, University Chorale and NOTUS, while the Concert Orchestra is composed of 79 musicians.

Having so many people work together in one setting builds a sense of community, Burleigh said.

“A Sea Symphony” is not played often, and this is the first performance of the piece at IU since 1962.

The soloists have taken on parts that would often be given to faculty members or outside professionals at other universities, Burleigh said.

“It’s been great working with them,” Burleigh said. “This is not an easy piece to sing. It’s a very physical piece to sing, and it’s not the sort of thing that any voice can do.”

The symphony is based off of poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” Burleigh said Vaughan Williams’ music brings the poetry to life in each movement.

The whole piece is a metaphor, Burleigh said, and it addresses topics such as the unity of the human race, our place in the universe and an exuberant sense of the present time.

“The sea is either a backdrop for these metaphors, or the sea itself can be a metaphor for so many of these ideas, this vast, fathomless thing that is wonderful and frightening and immense — all these things that the ocean is,” Burleigh said.

Lidell, a first year master’s student, said the act of putting the symphony together has been an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Vaughan William’s work is romantic and otherworldly, Lidell said.

His solo part is like a character in a show that represents the captain of a ship and is a metaphor for moving forward in life and taking on new challenges, Lidell said.

Lidell said it is different than his usual performances.

“I’ve done a lot of character roles and a lot of humorous roles, but now I get a chance to explore true musicality,” Lidell said.

The symphony is an hour and 20 minutes of relentless music, Lidell said, and although he gets plenty of breaks, he must keep his composure and musicality throughout the piece.

Wilhelm, a second year master’s student, said she was not familiar with the symphony before she started preparing for the concert, and she thinks the music is incredible.

Wilhelm said she often sings pieces that are sad and depressing, but “A Sea Symphony” is uplifting.

The symphony is a tribute to all things about the sea, Wilhelm said.

“I think it will have a lasting impression on the audience,” Wilhelm said.

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

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Jacobs quartet-in-residence to give performance Sunday

The Pacifica Quartet will perform Sunday in collaboration with Atar Arad, Jacobs School of Music faculty member, violinist and 

The concert will include “String Quartet No. 2 ‘Intimate Letters,’” “Whims” for solo viola, “Whims” for string quartet and “String Quartet No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 44 No. 2,” according to a press 

The performance will begin at 4 p.m. in Auer Hall inside the Simon Music Center. Admission is free.

The Pacifica Quartet is in its fourth year as the quartet-in-residence at the music school, where its members are also full-time faculty.

Prior to its appointment at the music school, the Pacifica Quartet was the quartet-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from 2009 to 2012.

The quartet is also the resident performing artist at the University of Chicago, and its members served on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Champagne-
Urbana from 2003 to 2012.

The Pacifica Quartet’s 2015-16 season includes performances across the United States as well as in Europe and Japan.

Atar Arad is a professor of music in the music school’s strings department. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Arad studied in Belgium and Israel before serving on faculty at universities in Europe and America.

Arad has toured worldwide, recorded for a variety of record labels and 
published essays on concertos by Béla Bartók and 
William Walton.

Arad began composing music in 1992. Since then, he has completed several compositions and arrangements, including a set of 12 caprices for viola in 2013, according to his website. His pieces also include “Whims” for solo viola and “Whims” for string quartet, both of which will be performed Sunday.

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

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University Orchestra conductor returns after injury

By Brooke McAfee

 Conductor David Effron leads the University Orchestra during a practice on the Musical Arts Center's stage on Tuesday afternoon. The concert on Wednesday will be the first Effron has conducted this year.

Conductor David Effron leads the University Orchestra during a practice on the Musical Arts Center’s stage on Tuesday afternoon. The concert on Wednesday will be the first Effron has conducted this year.

The members of the University Orchestra practiced their music on their own Tuesday evening on the stage of the Musical Arts Center. The jumble of various bits and pieces of music turned to a unified sound as the musicians tuned their instruments.

The conductor stepped up to the podium, and the symphony began.

The University Orchestra concert is at 8 p.m. 
today in the Musical Arts 

The University Orchestra was originally comprised of younger students, such as freshmen and sophomores, conductor David Effron said, but it has changed to include advanced musicians in important positions in the ensemble.

“I’m very proud of this orchestra because a lot of these people are first-year students,” Effron said.

Effron, who teaches conducting in the Jacobs School of Music, has conducted symphonies and opera companies throughout the world. He conducted more than 100 operas with the New York City Opera from 1964 to 1982. Before working at the music school, he taught at the University of Rochester.

This is the first concert Effron will be conducting this year after a knee surgery left him unable to conduct for approximately six months, Effron said.

“It’s special for me to get back on the podium, where I feel very much at home,” Effron said. “I love working with students.”

Effron said he wants the concert to be entertaining for the audience and educational for the students.

The concert is audience-friendly, Effron said, because it has music the audience can easily enjoy and recognize.

The program includes Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 7 in B Minor, D.759 (‘Unfinished’),” Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel, suite for orchestra” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Leonore 
Overture No. 3, Op. 72b.”

Schubert typifies beautiful melodies, Effron said.

“The melodies in this symphony are very singable and memorable,” Effron said.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s work is colorful, Effron said, and the piece shows off each instrument. He said the Beethoven piece, an overture to an opera, is dramatic and exciting, and it is a famous piece that will be important for the musicians throughout their careers.

As a conductor, Effron has a responsibility to introduce the students to the classical music repertoire, he said.

One of the challenges of being a musician in the University Orchestra is playing with many different people, Effron said.

“They learn about the wonders of playing with an orchestra, which is very different than playing a solo on stage,” Effron said.

Violinist Jamie Lee, a second-year post-doctoral student, said she likes Effron’s enthusiasm for the music and his work with the orchestra.

“Working with Mr. Effron was a good experience, and I really like the pieces we are playing,” Lee said.

Anish Pandit, a sophomore oboe player, said the concert is free entertainment and the music is 
emotionally riveting.

“I think non-musicians should come to this concert,” Pandit said. “Effron focuses much more on the emotional aspect of music.”

Timpani player Erich Rieppel, a second-year master’s student, said he likes Effron’s methods of teaching, which raise the musicians to higher levels of 

“He doesn’t treat us like a student ensemble,” Rieppel said. “He tries to bring us to his level and his idea of the piece.”

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

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Behind the Score project combines performance and study

By Brooke McAfee


Behind the Score allows musicians to look beyond the performance so they can understand the history and significance of the music, project curator and professor of violin Jorja Fleezanis said.

“It’s imperative to be able to cross these disciplines,” Fleezanis said. “It requires deviating from how we normally do things.”

The Behind the Score project focuses on Johannes Brahms’ composition “Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68.” The Symphony Orchestra will perform the piece at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Musical Arts Center. The performance features guest conductor Cliff Colnot.

The project is dedicated to teaching the musicians about more than simply performing the piece, Fleezanis said.

Their curriculum includes two guest speakers who gave the orchestra extensive biographical and musical information about Brahms and his work.

The concert will begin with a video that illustrates the project for the audience, Fleezanis said.

Cellist Styra Avins presented her research on the life and historical background of the composer in her lecture, “Brahms: The Making of the First Symphony.” The lecture highlighted what the symphony meant to the genre, Fleezanis said.

The knowledge of Brahms’ biography and the composition of the work will contribute to the Symphony Orchestra’s understanding of the piece, Fleezanis said.

University of Minnesota professor Michael Cherlin spoke about the harmonic behavior of the piece in his lecture “Liminal Space and the Uncanny in Brahms’ First 

His presentation was an unusual blend of literature and translation of musical thoughts, Fleezanis said.

Musicology, or the scholarly analysis and research of music, is important for the orchestra members to understand, and it should not be separated from the performance of music, Fleezanis said.

Colnot said his experience of working with the Symphony Orchestra on Behind the Score has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The students are serious, interested in learning and happy to donate their discretionary time to getting better,” Colnot said in an email.

Colnot is the principal 
conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series and the principal conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has taught at Columbia College, DePaul University and the University of 

The idea for the project came from both Fleezanis and Colnot during a dinner in Chicago and Fleezanis implemented it, Colnot said in an email.

Colnot is the perfect colleague for this project, and he helps the orchestra to understand the design of the piece, Fleezanis said.

“He gives them the tools to listen to what they need to listen to,” Fleezanis said. “He’s eager to learn and eager to be a collaborative partner in this project.”

Fleezanis said the symphony is incredibly significant because it is like “a continuation of Beethoven.”

Brahms’ symphony has a sentiment that is poetic and deeply intimate, she said.

Fleezanis said the orchestra’s exposure to the background of the symphony is gratifying both musically and technically, and the orchestra performs it with confidence.

“They will have much more to bring to the piece,” Fleezanis said. “The orchestra has grown 
tremendously from this.”

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

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Conductor Nadler again impresses in Philharmonic Orchestra performance

By Peter Jacobi

He was here in September to serve as music director and conductor for “The Barber of Seville,” a project of major scope which he carried out with formidable skill. This week, Paul Nadler was back to conduct the Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra in music of Mozart and Mahler. Once again, this repeat visitor impressed.

On each occasion, Nadler’s extensive experience in both the operatic and symphonic repertoire became evident. Whether or not he is a candidate being considered by the Jacobs School for the conducting job opening up with the retirement of David Effron, I do not know. Whether or not he is seeking that position, I do not know. In my view, however, he is someone to seriously consider. Musically speaking, “Barber” was excellent. So, too, was Wednesday’s concert.

Prior to intermission, he led the Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major, K.503, requiring the sensitivity to collaborate with a soloist and to do so in music that allows no errors, so diaphanous is it. After the break, he and the Philharmonic tackled Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Number 5, a 70-minute giant of a work that should be above the skill level of most orchestras but certainly turned out not to be for the Philharmonic, thanks to both the native talent of the young musicians and the ability of their visiting maestro.

Wednesday’s soloist in the Mozart concerto was Andreas Ioannides, a pianist from Cyprus engaged in doctoral studies with Menahem Pressler and Edmund Battersby, whose impact on him was evident. His finger work was spectacular. His ability to shape content into elegant passages was arresting and intoxicating. His command of Mozart’s score, the whole of it, was compelling. This young man is a major talent. With the orchestra a willing and able partner, they gave wing to one of Mozart’s loveliest concertos.

Mahler insisted that his Fifth Symphony, one without a vocal or choral element, was a score without a program; he wanted to assure the public that here was abstract music, music written for music’s sake, not for an inspirational goal. He also made sure to tell musicians how to perform this massive piece, providing guidance of how to play its three parts.

Translated from the original German, here are the composer’s requests. Part 1: “Funeral march, with measured step. Strict. Like a cortege. Stormily. With greatest vehemence.” Part 2: “Scherzo: Vigorously, not too fast.” Part 3: “Adagietto: Very slow. Rondo-Finale: Allegro giocoso. Lively.”

Did Wednesday’s performance follow all of those instructions? I can’t tell you. But all of the above seemed part of a reading that moved with great sweep, often with ferocity, with vehemence, but also at times with radiance, and rhythmically through a dissection of the waltz. There were passages of sadness and those of humor. There were ear-shattering climaxes along with moments of calm. The package furnished thrills and excitement. When it was over, the audience roared in a show of praise for a truly captivating performance.

© Herald Times 2015

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Director, guest composer create program musicians perform with distinction

By Peter Jacobi

David Dzubay is remarkable. Not only does he, as composer, contribute significantly to the output of contemporary music, but as teacher of composition in the Indiana University Jacobs School and as director of its New Music Ensemble, he consistently and continually encourages the creation and presentation of music for now and beyond.

Thursday evening, it was presentation time for him as he guided the ensemble in a program featuring an array of compositions written late in the 20th century and, even more so, in the 21st. As has become Dzubay’s tradition, he brought to the campus a visiting composer to work with composition students and, in Auer Hall, to listen as the New Music Ensemble performs some of his or her music. On this occasion, the guest was Bernard Rands, whose previous visit to campus came in 2011 when IU Opera Theater premiered his opera “Vincent,” an intriguing take on the life of painter Vincent van Gogh.

Music by Rands on Thursday required Dzubay to invite soloists, a pianist for Rands’ Three Pieces for Piano and three singers for a song cycle, “Folk Songs.” The piano pieces were inspired, says Rands, by three of his favorite composers, Scriabin, Debussy, and Ravel, pieces he “extended” and “transformed” into new works to test today’s pianists and listeners. The tested pianist on Thursday was Andreas Foivos-Apostolou, Athens born and now a Jacobs School master’s candidate doubling in piano performance and composition. His skills at the piano proved noteworthy. He did not seem tested at all but, rather, comfortably in sync with the styles and demands.

The other work by Rands on the program was a charmer, surprisingly a timelessly delightful collection of nine folk songs recast for soloist and an instrumental ensemble of 10 players, on Thursday ably conducted by Dzubay. The opening item set the tone, a traditional children’s song titled “Missus Murphy’s Chowder;” its music had to and did frame words such as these: “After dinner, Uncle Ben used to fill his fountain pen from a plate of Missus Murphy’s chowder. It had ice cream, cold cream, benzene, gasoline, soup beans, string beans floating all around; sponge cake, beef steak, mistake, stomach ache, cream puffs, ear muffs, many to be found,” and so on.

The collection was heavily weighted toward songs from the British Isles, songs from Rands’ childhood and college days. But items from Mexico and the Swiss Alps and Italy also made the list. Not all were comic. There were songs of love and love lost and the quietly stirring Welsh anthem, “All Though the Night.” Sopranos Tabitha Burchert and Kellie Motter and mezzo-soprano Courtney Jameson shared the cycle and gave it lift plus all the necessary shifts and tilts.

The remainder of the program featured Italian contemporaries, first a wild and arresting fanfare called “Call,” written by Luciano Berio in 1985; it was well conducted by Danko Drusko, a doctoral candidate in conducting, and for it, Drusko scattered five brass players around the hall at balcony/organ loft level. Dzubay took over to conduct ensembles of various sizes in three works by other Italians: Franco Donatoni (“Arpege,” written in 1986 for an ensemble of six), Salvatore Sciarrino (“Archeologia del telefono,” composed in 2005 for 13 players), and Luca Francesconi (“Controcanto,” written in 2003 for 15 musicians).

Though the Italian pieces — tending toward the tuneless, rhythm-less, and theme-less — are not to my taste, I remain in awe over David Dzubay’s ability to find compositions to play, concert after concert and year after year, and his ability to train the New Music Ensemble musicians to perform all of his finds. Many of them seem like devils to play, but when the concert comes, they are played with distinction. So it was on Thursday.


© Herald Times 2015

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Chamber Orchestra opens season with moving performance

By Peter Jacobi

From the ominous opening chords of Beethoven’s Overture to “Egmont,” played with startling force, one could predict that what followed — the Indiana University Chamber Orchestra’s season-opening concert in Auer Hall — would be a success.

It was: from the Beethoven through a contemporary work by Justin Merritt, an IU alumnus, and to Schubert’s popular Symphony Number 5.

In charge was violinist Jorja Fleezanis, the Jacob School’s Henry Upper Chair in Orchestral Studies, sitting up front for the evening as concertmaster and leader, a two-pronged task she’s undertaken here several times in recent years. Having served as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra for 21 years prior to her arrival in Bloomington, she has become a wise and warm presence, helping to guide students toward greater understanding of what, in addition to technical command of an instrument, it takes to become a thriving and appreciated member of a professional orchestra.

Perhaps the ultimate test for a player is to participate in preparing and then performing a concert without a conductor but with a sitting leader, usually the concertmaster. Leader and musicians must work closely to coordinate and emotionally develop readings that will satisfy an audience. Wednesday’s concert concluded such a test for members of the Chamber Orchestra. Thanks to Fleezanis and her ranks of musicians, the results appeared to very much satisfy the audience. Response was enthusiastic.

The “Egmont” Overture was part of Beethoven’s score of incidental music written for a revival in Vienna of Goethe’s play “Egmont.” Very little of that music is performed today, save for the overture, which prominently shows up on symphonic programs. It’s a dramatic piece, meant to reflect a real-life hero, Count Egmont, who fought to prevent the invading Spaniards from taking over the Netherlands. He did not succeed and lost his head. For Beethoven, as for Goethe, he was a heroic figure worth celebrating. The overture does, as did the Chamber Orchestra’s vivid and neatly-put together reading.

Placed between Beethoven and Schubert was “Lachryme” by IU alum Justin Merritt, scored for string orchestra in 2002, a melancholy exercise that might be labeled neo-Romantic in style, very much reminiscent of music composed a long while ago. It proved, nevertheless, interesting to hear and emotionally involving. The orchestration is skillful and effective. Thematic development promotes “Lachryme’s” ample and sadly attractive melodic content. Again, Fleezanis and her young charges captured the essences of mood in an admirably prepared and moving performance.

Schubert’s sunny Fifth Symphony, with its hit parade of lovely tunes, received a delightful, spirited, and yet also refined reading, impressive from start to finish. The performance was a joy to hear, rich as it was in rhythmic verve and brimming with technical confidence. The Fleezanis/student collaboration impressed; it definitely worked.

© Herald Times

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Philharmonic performance showing at Jacobs

By Brooke McAfee

Arnaldo Cohen, a professor of music in Jacobs School of Music, did not originally intend to become a professional musician. In fact, he abandoned an engineering degree to pursue music.

“I played for a very important musician in Brazil, and he told me that I had all the ingredients to become a professional,” he said.

Now Cohen is a renowned pianist performing in concerts around the world, including a performance with the music school’s Philharmonic Orchestra, which will perform at 8 p.m. today in the Musical Arts Center.

The concert will feature conductor Arthur Fagen and a piano solo by Cohen.

The concert’s repertoire includes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18,” Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasy” and Franz Liszt’s “Les préludes.”

Cohen will open the concert with a performance of the Rachmaninoff concerto.

After leaving engineering school, Cohen played violin and piano for the Rio de Janeiro Opera House Orchestra. He struggled to make a living for about five years, but when he won the 1972 Busoni International Competition in Italy, doors began to open for his career.

He moved to London and started to perform all over the world. Before moving to Bloomington, he was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He accepted a teaching position at IU in 2004.

He now divides his time between three full-time professions. In addition to teaching at IU, he plays in concerts and works as the director of a piano series in Portland called Portland Piano International.

Cohen said “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18” is one of the most popular pieces in his piano repertoire.

“Rachmaninoff, for me, is an exception, because he was one of the last composers who could perform his own music that was a great pianist,” Cohen said.

The piano concerto is also one of the most difficult piano concertos, Cohen said.

The Jacobs School of Music has first class musicians in all departments, and the Philharmonic Orchestra features plenty of talent, Cohen said.

“It’s a privilege to be part of this school,” he said.

Cohen said he also appreciates that the concerts at the music school are free and open to the public.

Fagen, a professor of orchestral conducting in the music school, said the Philharmonic Orchestra is the most advanced orchestra of the five orchestras in the music school. The ensemble consists of only graduate students.

The beginning of the year is an exciting time for student musicians, because there is a tremendous amount of energy. The students have just finished summer vacation and are not yet experiencing the pressure of finals, Fagen said.

“There’s a special energy at the beginning of the season,” he said.

Fagen said the selection of music is exciting and accessible, making it a great concert for people unfamiliar with classical music.

Having a virtuoso such as Cohen perform a concert with the Philharmonic Orchestra is a good experience for the students, who are playing at a professional level themselves, Fagen said.

“I always think it sets an artistic example for students,” he said.

© Indiana Daily Student 2015

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