College Orchestra pleases with majestic instrumentation

The halls of the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall were graced with a virtuoso performance and some holiday-appropriate song selections from the College Orchestra on Saturday, Nov. 22. A number of audience members had to stand at the sold-out concert.

The centerpiece of the performance was faculty soloist Tomoko Kanamaru, assistant professor of music, on the piano.

Together, she and the Orchestra performed Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto.

Kanamaru played the chameleon in her performance. At the start of the piece, she seemed to be keeping the beat and then took over the melody. She was able to change volumes smoothly, slipping in and out of the background. She also displayed command over a number of different tones – at times she was furious, at other times, gentle or melancholy. She commanded so much attention that when she wasn’t playing, you noticed.

And it’s not like Tchaikovsky made it easy on her or anyone else sitting down to play – even though Kanamaru was more than game, a listener could tell how difficult some of the passages were.

Kanamaru is a performer who is as fun to watch as she is to listen to. During the piece, she swayed her head to the music and often raised her free hand from the keys dramatically.

The first movement of the piece showed Kanamaru and the Orchestra’s muscle.

Philip Tate, the Orchestra’s conductor, displayed a propensity for turning the volume way up, but Kanamaru was right there in terms of decibel level. On some of the solo passages, she filled the halls with just the sound of her piano.

The second movement turned sweet and playful, carried by lovely melodies, while the third was bipolar. It traded between a robust main theme and a more lyrical melody.

The piece brought audience memebers to their feet because of the verve, vigor and volume with which it was played. A long, standing ovation and shouts of “bravo” followed.

The concert also featured more familiar work, also by Tchaikovsky, as the Orchestra performed a number of selections from “The Nutcracker.”

Pieces like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Waltz of the Flowers” are familiar, though people might not know them by name. It’s a little like covering the Beatles – it’s a crowd-pleaser, but you have to execute.

And the Orchestra did. The strings were particularly majestic on “Waltz of the Flowers.” The waltz began with a skillful Ashley Taylor, sophomore music education major, on the harp.

In came the strings, then the horns and then the clarinets, before everything gave way to the grand and familiar melody, punctuated by playful flutes.

The Orchestra’s play swelled in grandeur and emotion as the piece closed, sending the audience sailing happily into intermission.

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Myles Ma