Rap, hip-hop and pop dominate today’s radio stations and are among the best-selling genres of music. Classical music, however, is much less prevalent in modern society. Most college students can’t stand it, but it’s worth questioning whether they’ve ever actually given it a chance.
There’s no better time than during college to try new things, whether that means belly dancing, rowing or listening to — maybe even playing — classical music. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), which plays primarily in the Eastman Theatre at the Eastman School of Music, is a fabulous group of incredibly talented musicians, and offers $10 tickets to UR students.
The program for Thursday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 12 presented a diverse selection of composers, musical styles and forms. Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major” opened the concert with beautiful harmonies, brisk motion and playful melodies composing the first movement. The second movement presented a more dulcet sound, yet introduced darker motifs.
Peter Kurau, the principal horn player, demonstrated technical and emotive genius in the next two pieces, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major for horn and orchestra,” and “Concerto-Rondo for horn in E-flat major.” Wide interval leaps are difficult to master, and Kurau played them as if they were second nature.
I decided nearly a month ago that I was long overdue for an RPO concert, and went to the Nov. 10 and 12 program for a reason: Antonín Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” is amazing. The four movements present ample interplay with recurring motifs and thematic relation.
The opening movement begins with a melodious yet apprehensive introduction, which leads into the first theme of the exposition. Bold and beckoning, it cleverly glues the four movements together and appears in each.
Flute solos stated the second theme of the first movement. The theme is rather calming, but also eerie in its tone and alternation between major and minor modes.
The development section twists the themes, bringing them through a series of new keys, ultimately yielding a recapitulation and thrilling coda.
The second movement started with a brass chorale, which the RPO played with perfect intonation. Then, the English horn sang the movement’s main theme. The sound became perturbed, but was later rounded out by a restatement of the main theme.
Maintaining a dancelike feel throughout, the third movement put forth grandiosity, danger and cheer through a multitude of contrasting lines. It culminated in a new formulation of the recurring theme, and, while altered, the listener knew without a doubt that the concluding 40 seconds are a callback to the opening movement.
The final movement of the symphony was the defining one, ingrained in listeners’ memories not just because they heard it last, but also because it demonstrated such an unforgettable power and intensity.
The movement opens with a series of ascending half steps, which the modern-day listener may equate to the theme from “Jaws.” This proceeds to the authoritative theme of the movement, stated in the brass instruments. Themes from all three of the previous movements come back into play throughout the remainder of the piece.
The RPO’s execution was remarkable for its sheer volume and a dark resonance, which together created an overwhelming sound that sunk the listener into his or her seat to relish the music. The fourth movement as a whole is bewilderingly strong and beautiful, so much so that my body could not help but react with goosebumps.
The hour-and-a-half long program made time disappear by way of incredible music. The RPO deserves to be at the heart of Rochester’s culture. Just let the three or four rounds of applause and standing ovations serve as a testament to the RPO’s talent.
Seligman is a member of the class of 2012.