While some sang along to the emo sounds and awkward guitar-tunings of Dashboard Confessional at the concert at the Palestra on Sept. 30, others were taken on a journey through the passionate, intense sounds of Russia.

Neil Varon guided the Eastman Philharmonia, or “Phil” as it is affectionately called, through an amazing performance featuring the music by three of Russia’s most renowned composers – Mikhail Glinka, Piotr Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Shostakovich. Contrary to the responses from their original debuts, the works received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The themes from Shostakovich’s ninth symphony and Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto buzzed through my head throughout the rest of the night. They resonated alongside the images of violinists straining every muscle in their arms to execute each note with the necessary passion and intensity.

The evening started with an overture from one of Glinka’s most famous opera compositions “Russlan and Ludmilla,” which is based on a poem by another famous Russian – poet Alexander Pushkin. The unbelievably fast runs performed by the violins in a piano dynamic were some of the most impressive sections of the performance. At times, the fast tempo seemed too difficult for the orchestra to keep up with, but seemed to mirror the adventurous tale of Russlan chasing after his beloved Ludmilla.

The overture demanded the participation of an active audience that would listen through the thick and heavy phrases. That wouldn’t be surprising considering the composer, who is identified as one of “The Mighty Handful,” or “The Five” – a group of Russian composers who endeavored toward producing distinctive Russian music.

The heavy, quarter-note-driven first statement of Shostakovich’s ninth symphony never fails to evoke a nationalistic pride in whomever listens to it. The timpani, of course, are also instrumental – no pun intended – to the heavy texture of this piece. After settling into their seats from the previous pieces, the public was once again stirred from their seats by the Phil’s intense presentation of the orchestral work.

However, the most exhilarating section of the entire concert had to be Tchaikovksy’s violin concerto with senior Matt Zerweck, who was chosen out of five other violinists for the solo.

“Its easy to be inspired when there is an immense world of timbre opening up around you, helping to create the long lines and ever-building tension that’s necessary for the Tchaikovsky [violin concerto] to be successful,” Zerweck said of his experience. “To actually feel the immense physical power of the tutti sections is exhilarating.”

The audience was noticeably moved by his performance, congratulating him with an extensive standing ovation that seemed to be an addition to the concert’s program. Zerweck mentioned his surprise at being recognized and congratulated by Rochesterians outside Java’s even after the performance.

Save for the few awkward entrances from the horn section and subtle imbalances in dynamics between the strings and Zerweck during his concerto, the Eastman Phil delivered an amazing performance that showcased some of the most prominent musical works by 19th and 20th century Russian composers.figueredo can be reached at ofigueredo@campustimes.org.



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