Back when I was considering all of the reasons why I wanted to apply to UR, one of the main draws was its connection with Eastman School of Music. I had been aware of the multiple music opportunities at UR, from taking free lessons to attending world-class performances for a nominal fee, thanks to the blessing of student discounts. And yet I am consistently blown away by the sheer quality of every event I’ve attended there, from operas to modern dance shows. I’ve ventured outside of my auditory comfort zone (I consider myself a devoted listener to ‘70s and ‘80s pop) and have since learned to fully appreciate the experience of classical music. This was reinforced by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s (RPO)performance of “An American in Paris,” featuring conductor Jeffrey Kahane, who not only brilliantly lead the orchestra, but did so while playing piano.
The concert was comprised of four sections, the first being Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G major.” The melodic wizardry of Kahane produced a pleasant wash of sound that seemed to persuade the other instruments to join in. The flutes and piano, effortlessly exchanged melodic lines as if engaged in conversation. The violins created a rich, swelling texture that was punctuated by resonant violas. The end of the first movement featured a harp, harnessing the intense energy of the full effect of the orchestra and returning it to a tranquil state. The texture began to build once again, with piano, strings, woodwinds, and percussion uniting to produce a mesmerizing and deeply moving sound.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the piece, however, was Kahane’s fantastic execution as a pianist and conductor. He used his entire body in playing and made sharp head movements to cue sections of the orchestra, who never neglected a single note.
My favorite of the movements was Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” which had a prominent jazz twist. Gershwin once said that the purpose of the piece was “…to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris, as he strolls about the city…and absorbs the French atmosphere.” The story he intended features an American in a bar, succumbing to homesickness but eventually becoming immersed in his experience of France. He created this effect through the seamless melody lines of the piano that were enhanced by swelling violins and bassoon accents. The famous jazz melody line featuring a trombone, sounds deceptively loose but requires flawless precision. Each instrumental section of the RPO seemed to have its own solo time, and then everyone was united by the conclusion to produce an overwhelmingly rich sound that was lead by the triumphant march of the piano.
The entire experience reminded me not only of my affection for classical music, but of the reason why I have always loved being a part of musical ensembles – every musician and vocalist is forced to set aside their differences and combine their talents in order to produce an effective sound that is meaningful to the audience. It is not about outshining the person next to you or proving your own mastery, but to becoming a part of the outstanding product that forms when dedication, passion, and talent are combined. Kahane’s musical direction and the entire orchestra are an exceptional result. As a part of your Rochester experience, you owe it to yourself to attend at least one RPO performance. But I caution you – once you hear the result, you may find yourself in Kodak Hall more often than not.
Kibler is a member of
the class of 2017.