This past Thursday, UConn’s Symphony Orchestra had their first concert of the 2023
The UConn Symphony Orchestra is a diverse group of around 75 undergraduate and graduate UConn students. Its members come from various academic backgrounds, not just music majors. The orchestra itself consists of an array of instruments, including both traditional string and common band instruments. Alongside the classic orchestra instruments like the violin and cello, you can find musicians skilled in trumpet, flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon. Each semester, the UConn Symphony Orchestra performs two to three times a year at Von Der Mehden recital hall, located near the School of Fine Arts. Their repertoire encompasses classical, romantic and contemporary orchestra pieces, and for this concert, they were under the baton of the esteemed conductor Reuben Stern.
Stern is the founder and music director of the Boston Orchestra Book Club and also conducts for the Harvard Medical School Chamber Music Society. Stern’s impressive credentials also include recently guest-conducting for the American Modern Ensemble and Mostly Modern Orchestra in four world premieres. During their undergraduate years at Harvard, Stern studied conducting under Federico Cortese, becoming the second person ever to hold a three-year position as the music director of Harvard’s famed Bach Society Orchestra.
Given Stern’s remarkable background, expectations were high for the concert, and they were surely met.
The opening piece of the evening was “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, a composer renowned for his ability to evoke images of the Americana landscape and spirit through unique compositions. Copland intended for this piece to be reflective of the feelings of the “common man” in America. Because of this, he thought the best day to release this piece was March 12, 1943, income tax day. The piece reflected the common feelings of U.S citizens at the time who were trying to stay strong during a time of political tumult. This piece exclusively featured brass and percussion instruments like horn, trumpet and timpani.
Following this, the orchestra performed “Four Noveletten for String Orchestra” by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. This piece consists of four short movements: allegro moderato, larghetto, andante con moto and allegro molto. This piece exuded a romantic ambiance, inviting listeners to create their own interpretations. At times, the notes felt like a portrayal of two people falling in love, while other times they painted a picture of a couple separated by unknown circumstances. Throughout the piece, the violin frequently took center stage, intensifying the emotions the piece conveyed.
Next in line was “Serenade for Winds, Op. 7” by Richard Strauss, which continued to build the romantic atmosphere. The piece narrates Strauss’s personal journey and his love for music that was founded in his admiration for classical music legends Mozart and Mendelssohn. The pieces fluctuated between calm and passionate sound, creating a compelling music narrative.
The final, stand-out piece of the night was the timeless “Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 6” by Beethoven, featuring four movements: allegro con brio, andante con moto, scherzo: allegro and allegro–presto. This piece is one of Beethoven’s most iconic symphonies, instantly recognizable by its opening bars. The Symphony Orchestra’s rendition was exceptional and every movement was executed flawlessly. It was clear that every member of the orchestra had poured their heart and soul into not only learning the piece but also performing it to perfection. Along with the rest of the audience, I could only watch in awe as the performance lasted for nearly half an hour without a single mistake. The standing ovation that followed was a well-deserved tribute to their outstanding performance.
Overall, I strongly recommend that every UConn student attends at least one Symphony Orchestra concert each semester, as it offers an unforgettable experience. Suhitha Sreedhar, a first-semester business management major and first-time concert attendee, summed it up perfectly, stating, “One word to describe the entire experience for me was that it was magical.”
As the concerts are free for students, I hope to see more people take advantage of this opportunity in the future. Each concert brings something unique and special to the table, making it an experience you won’t want to miss.