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This concert was astonishing! I felt like I was at a famous performance in a world-renown auditorium somewhere in Europe. This type of music is popular in the United States, but not anywhere compared to like Great Britain or Germany it seems. The band that performed was Sacramentos one and only Symphony Orchestra. The lead conductor of this band was Leo Eylar who is going to be retiring from CSU Sacramento after this semester. The other conductor of this Orchestra was Brian O’Donnell, a recent grad. student conductor. This performance took place on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in the Capistrano Concert Hall. The Orchestra performed a total of four pieces. The first one was called Night on Bald Mountain. Next one was called the Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31; I. Allegro Vigoroso, II. Adagio ma senza rigore, III. Allegro giocoso. The third after intermission was Serenade for 13 Winds in E-flat Major, Op. 7. The grand finally was Zodiac; I. Vernal Equinox, II. Summer Solstice, III. Autumnal Equinox, IV. Winter Solstice.
The first piece I liked was Serenade for 13 Winds in E-flat Major, Op. 7 written by Richard Strauss. I liked this piece because it gave me a reminder or something Mozart would have composed. This piece was completed back in 1881. Richard was only the age of 18 when he wrote this. The piece was his first ever to be performed outside where he lived in Munich, Germany. The conductor at the time that did the song for him was Franz Wullner, who later became a good friend of Strauss. This piece is a single movement work in the expansive sonata form. The music seems to very lyrical and has a great melody to it. It then seems to almost put out the full force of all the wind instruments. The best part of the whole piece to me was the ending. It made me feel really warm and has a soothing feel to it.
The next piece I thought was decent was Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31 written by Gerald Finizi. Finizi lived for only a short time period to the age of 55 but did some really outstanding work while he was around. Finizi was more gear driven to be extremely lyrical and play for the audience in a friendly type matter. He tended to be very generous when it came to the clarinet players in their solos. I wonder why Finizi was like that? This composition was written back in late 1948-1949. The whole song as a whole was just a little average to me. It just felt kinda sad and almost limited the performance of the players as a whole. There just seemed to be a lot of long slow periods, then a quick 20-second outburst of all the instruments playing at once during the first movement. It also seemed like it was the same repetitive keys over and over for the clarinet. The second movement was slightly more “free,” but was still fairly limited. The strings felt almost as a superior, while the clarinet was attempting to break away from the group. It wasn’t until the 3rd movement that I felt like I could hear the full effect of the clarinet performing. The clarinet began to take the lead more and more towards the end of the movement and it did finally towards the end. It was almost as if the strings took the previous role of following behind the clarinet. After hearing the true “ability” of the clarinet, I wish I could be able to perform or even play that instrument half as good.
The third piece, Zodiac, was composed by Zachary M. Watkins. This piece is his first major work for Watkins to receive his Master of Music degree in composition. I wish I was able to record this piece to see what a modern composer can create. Each movement consists of three zodiac signs grouped together by the seasons. All twelve passages are distinctively different from one another. This piece is about 25 minutes in length. It is not a symphony in name but does contain some features that are small in that form.
The final piece I thought was the most outstanding to me was Night on Bald Mountain composed by Modest Moussorgsky. Though Moussorgsky wrote most of this, he never was able to perform it before he passed away due to alcoholism and when no one would perform this type of dark performance. A good friend Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov would finish it in his version 5 years later. Nikolai’s version would eventually obtain lasting fame. Just over half a century later, Walt Disney used this piece in the famous film Fantasia. That is when this composition reached new heights in recognition all across the world and more modern musicians begin to perform this magnificent piece. The story depicts the dark witches’ rituals, conjuring up the devil on a bleak mountaintop. This mountain is no special mountain in a certain part of the world, just an empty hill without any trees or anything that is alive.
At the end of the day, my favorite pieces would have to be Night on Bald Mountain and Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op. 31. Movement 3: Allegro giocoso. I loved to hear the darkness of the first one and the solo’s of the clarinet performer Robert Mitchell. This student will be going places in his future and I will not be surprised if he ends up performing to help make soundtracks for films and being in world-renowned orchestras. I will definitely be going to some of these concerts at Sacramento State in the coming months when I will attend there next spring.