Bach, Hindemith and Brahms, oh my! The Eastman Philharmonia kicks off a season of great music with a free concert on Friday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Eastman Theatre.

The program opens with J.S. Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, followed by Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis, and Brahms Symphony No. 4. It’s a challenging program that stirs excitement among the members of the Philharmonia and anticipation mixed with the occasional pang of jealous among the underclassmen players in the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra.

“The orchestra is definitely pleased with music for this concert,” senior Corrina Lynch, violist, said. The season is full of music that is sure to be a hit with musicians and audiences alike.

“I have tried to vary many different time periods and styles so that audiences will surely find something they like among the programs,” said conductor Neil Varon.

“I believe an orchestra’s attitude depends greatly on that of the conductor, how much he cares, much like that of a parent,” Varon said.

With the rapid-fire succession of conductors that the Philharmonia experienced last year, Varon’s caring approach is something that the musicians felt was lacking in the past.

There is also hope that a change in the overall attitude of the orchestra will raise their current standard of excellence to an even higher level. Varon has been rehearsing with the orchestra for less than a month, and he is already confident in the ensemble’s ability.

“I’m truly impressed with the potential of all the orchestras here at Eastman,” he says. “I do believe that I can reach my goals for all of the ensembles here, but it is a tough road, and it can only be reached by diligence and perseverance on all our parts, including mine as well.”

Varon has been doing his part, and has been met with positive feedback from orchestra members. “I think everyone really likes him,” Lynch said. “He’s helping to unify the orchestra.”

Coincidentally, unification of the orchestra is one of Varon’s goals for this season. “I hope that audiences will experience a fine body of musicians playing as an ensemble, that is to say unified,” Varon said.

The orchestra’s response to Varon’s leadership will hopefully yield a successful season. Varon is optimistic. “What I do see right now is a great willingness on the part of the orchestra here to try to accomplish what I am trying to set out for them. Time will tell.”

Along with his musical goals for the orchestra, Varon feels that steps need to be taken to make Eastman a greater part of the Rochester and university communities.

“One of the most important aspects which is yet to be found is how we at Eastman become more a part of the total community of Rochester. How do we win our support for our ensembles and endeavors? Certainly, a perfect orchestra playing for empty houses is not the answer for the students, or the community. So let us reach out for and to one another.”

With great music and an enthusiastic new conductor, an exciting season is in store for both the Eastman Philharmonia and the Rochester community. The concerts will be impressive, and admission is free.

With nothing to lose, and so much to gain, it would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity. So, next Friday, take a break from practicing, homework, or whatever you’re working on, and treat yourself to an evening with the Philharmonia.

Ristow can be reached at

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