UConn Orchestra performs Mendelssohn, Joplin in Hartford

The University of Connecticut Symphony Orchestra traveled to Hartford Friday night to perform at the Infinity Music Hall with featured violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. (Screenshot courtesy of Hartford Infinity Hall)

The University of Connecticut Symphony Orchestra traveled to Hartford Friday night to perform at the Infinity Music Hall with featured violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. (Screenshot courtesy of Hartford Infinity Hall)

The University of Connecticut Symphony Orchestra traveled to Hartford Friday night to perform at the Infinity Music Hall with featured violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv.

Ivakhiv, who is a professor and Head of Strings in the UConn music department, joined the group for their second piece, “Concerto for Violin and Strings in D Minor,” by Felix Mendelssohn.

“It’s not that Mendelssohn concerto,” conductor and UConn professor Harvey Felder joked, referencing the composer’s much more famous concerto in E minor.

This piece, Ivakhiv said, was discovered in a library in Germany in the 1950s.

“Only recently, in the past five years, it became part of some violinists’ repertoire,” she said.

The concerto featured Ivakhiv trading melodic motifs back and forth with the orchestra, occasionally punctuated by an extended solo performance.

Ivakhiv said she recently received a School of Fine Arts dean’s grant to record “Concerto in D Minor” this November.

The orchestra began the evening with the Don Quixote Suite, a baroque piece by German composer Georg Philipp Telemann inspired by the eponymous Spanish novel.

The first movement of Don Quixote featured a lovely descending refrain, which was repeated and reinterpreted by various combinations of instruments.

In the third movement, “Attack on the Windmills,” a single repeated viola built tension as strings swelled around it.

After Ivakhiv’s performance, the orchestra began “Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky,” a nine-part piece by Anton Arensky which builds on a musical motif from Tchaikovsky’s “Legend: Christ in His Garden.”

Arensky and Tchaikovsky were contemporaries, Felder said, but Tchaikovsky was slightly older.

“This is sort of an homage to [Arensky’s] mentor and hero and someone that he looked up to,” he said.

As the piece went on, the variations deviated further and further from the original theme. Early versions shifted the melody to different instruments, subverting the original arrangement, while later versions incorporated wildly different playing techniques, like plucking strings.

The evening concluded with American composer Scott Joplin’s “Paragon Rag.”

Felder said Joplin was also writing at the same time as Arensky and Tchaikovsky, but much of his music bears little resemblance to the Russians’.

“Joplin was a ragtime composer,” he said. “It can be argued that ragtime was the beginning of what would come to be known as jazz.”

“Paragon Rag” was an upbeat jaunt, which featured the orchestra literally stomping their feet to the rhythm as they played.

The selections for the evening ran the gamut of style and emotion, from Telemann's bright baroque to what Felder described as the “brooding quality” of Mendelssohn’s “Concerto.”

“We were trying to think of all the different emotions we could present to you,” Felder said.

The performance was part of UConn’s Ensemble in Residence Program, an initiative funded by an Academic Plan Grant from the Office of the Provost, which brings UConn bands to local communities.


Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at charles.smart@uconn.edu.