Samantha Andrew, Contributing Photographer

As the final triumphant chords died away, a hushed silence ensued. The audience of nearly 2,000 knew that it had just heard a truly momentous performance. The piece performed was Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “The Resurrection,” and the concert was dedicated to the memory of the late Dean Emeritus Douglas Lowry.

Much like a rest in a piece preceding thunderous chords, the momentary silence of the audience expressed more than the voluminous applause that followed. It allowed both the performers and the audience to offer a profound commemoration of the dean’s tenure at Eastman.

Last Friday, the Eastman Philharmonica and Eastman Rochester Chorus, prepared by William Weinert, filled the stage of Kodak Hall. Conductor Neil Varon led the combined forces of nearly 300 musicians in the 90-minute work, the only piece on the program. Due to its length, there was an intermission between the first movement and the subsequent four.

Soprano Kimberly Merrill and mezzo-soprano Melissa Zgouridi sang the moving vocal solos in the fourth and fifth movements. Both seniors at Eastman received several bows, particularly Zgouridi, whose solo was featured in the solemn fourth movement. Zgouridi’s rich, mellifluous voice and commanding stage presence effectively achieved Mahler’s intended mood change from a feeling of large forces to the intimacy of voice and strings. The fourth movement flowed into the fifth without pause, causing the jubilant brass fanfares to be especially momentous and celebratory after the sorrow of the mezzo-soprano solo.

The opportunity to perform such a large-scale work brought an extra vigor to the Eastman Philharmonica and Eastman Rochester Chorus. The heightened energy of the strings and the dramatic union of orchestra, soloists, and chorus brought the piece to an exciting finish.

As expressed in the title, “Resurrection,” the musicians gave voice to the symphony’s celebration of life after death, while commemorating the memory of Eastman’s cherished former dean.

Skjerseth is a member of the class of 2013.

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