Hailing from Germany and dressed in all black, the Munich Symphony Orchestra, led by French conductor and pianist Philippe Entremont, delivered a resoundingly efficient and astounding performance Monday night at a moderately-packed Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.
If jazz performances are defined by their freestyle audial aesthetic, classical ones take pride in their control – and every bit of the orchestra’s play was deliberate, from the occasional dissonant toot of a woodwind instrument to the melody of violins crafting an orchestral landscape through a gradually rising crescendo. For example, these elements came into play during the introductory cover of Gioachino Rossini’s “Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri:” an operatic piece that tells the story of an Italian woman attempting to free her lover from imprisonment.
Don’t mistake their clockwork-like precision for tediousness. Each piece illustrated an image: whether of frolicking through the woods or waltzing in a garnished ballet room. While totally expected, the orchestra’s level of meticulous, technical musical cogitation held control of the audience while maintaining a level of captivation with each piece.
This can be intimidating to anyone that isn’t a classical music buff. It isn’t boring to sit through symphonies as much as it is an emotional and audial investment. Imagine feeling light-hearted, spontaneous and daring in one movement, only to feel solemn, nervous and reserved in the next, as listeners did during the orchestra’s rendition of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90.”
The shuffling of pages between movements can also create discomfort for newer listeners, who raise their hands in all-too-eager anticipation for an applause, only to be disappointed upon realizing that no one else is going to clap. Their anxiety probably spikes tenfold when suddenly, after a brief, silent interlude, the strings begin racing against each other.
The Munich Symphony Orchestra’s dynamicism showcased their immense focus and presumable years of experience. Even for the trained ear, it was hard to tell which section was the star of the night. On one hand, the collected Entremont looked untouchable on stage as he effortlessly conducted his troupe.
But could the most noteworthy part have been the powerful string section, which simultaneously tugged at listener’s hearts with calculated, soft plucks and vibrant livelihood during their performance of excerpts from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen Suites?” How about the woodwind players, who brought a level of concrete harmony and direction to the string section’s more colorful sentiment?
Perhaps it was all of them. Seventh-semester music theory major Matthew Chiu said he thought that all parts of the group contributed to embodying the spirit of each of the composers.
“The portrayal of Italian lyricism in Mendelssohn’s symphony and rhythmic intensity in the dance-like selections in ‘Carmen’ in particular had successful synchronization with each other,” Chiu said.
Either way, the seemingly endless applause by the end of the performance – which started two encore pieces – spoke enough to the crowd’s reception. Filled to the brim with zest and euphoria, the Munich Symphony Orchestra came through with a stellar showing in Storrs.
Yet judging by their sheer power, it was probably just a standard night for the ruthlessly impeccable musical group.