By Julia Duggan
As the lights dimmed and the director walked onstage in Mayo Hall, the audience’s whispered chatter turned silent, waiting to hear the group of students begin their performance.
The TCNJ Orchestra performed their first concert of the semester on Thursday, Feb. 26. Led by Professor Uli Speth, the director of TCNJ Orchestra, the concert opened with “Carmen Suite No. 1” by Georges Bizet, in which all six movements were performed.
The first movement, the “Prelude,” was performed beautifully, as the strings blended well with the rest of the ensemble. The trombones could easily be heard in the second movement. In the third movement, “Intermezzo,” the flute and harp solos sounded elegant, as both performers were expressive and made the solos their own.
“Séguedille” was the fourth movement, and the orchestra captured the playful character. Several audience members were even swaying along. The fifth movement, “Les Dragons d’Alcala,” had an exotic character to it, which the bassoon and the snare drum captured perfectly. But the audience’s favorite movement was the last one, “Les Toréadors.” This loud, exciting and passionate movement surprised the audience at first — Most of the other movements required the musicians to play at a medium level of sound, but the orchestra showed how loud it could get with the final movement.
The second piece the orchestra performed the peaceful and slow “Pavane pour une infante défunte” by Maurice Ravel, which the musicians executed quietly and with great success.
The final piece that the orchestra played was “Symphony No.1 in D Major” movements “III. Feierlich und Gemessen,” “Ohne Zu Schleppen” and “I. Langsam” by Gustav Mahler. The orchestra grew in size as another French horn player, a piccolo player, a bass clarinet player and an english horn player took the stage.
“I’m personally a fan of German and Russian composers, so it’s very exciting to play Mahler for the first time,” said Alexis Silverman, a senior music education major who performed on the clarinet.
Speth decided to start with the third movement and end with the first. This decision makes sense since the third movement is quiet, peaceful, calm, and most conductos want to end with something exciting and loud. The first movement is just that.
The third movement was slow and beautifully blended, while the first movement was incredible to watch. The trumpets were required to leave the stage and perform in a different room than the concert hall, which made them sound distant and hinted that something important or exciting would happen soon.
To make this work, one of the trombone players left with the trumpets and followed Speth’s conducting cues, so the trumpets could stay with the orchestra even though they could not see Speth. The very beginning of the first movement started off with an eerie sound from the strings and contrasted with an upbeat and pleasant sound from the trumpets.
The rest of the piece demonstrated the orchestra’s control on volume. The audience was impressed at the level of excitement this orchestra could create and then, just as fast, shrink its volume to almost nothing.
“I thoroughly enjoyed all of the music the orchestra played,” said Gaia Hutcheson, a sophomore music education major. “It was an exciting and daring program — ‘Mahler’ especially is difficult to play, and requires a lot of musicians. My favorite piece had to be the ‘Carmen’ suite though. The movements were very expressive and each one seemed to tell a different story. It was also exciting to hear a familiar tune.”