Weill Hall hosts first symphonic concert of the semester

STAR // Bryce Dowd

A concerto is a musical composition for a solo instrument that is backed by a full orchestra. The Santa Rosa Junior College Orchestra and the Sonoma State University Symphony Orchestra demonstrated the true diversity of concerto compositions at the orchestra’s first concert of the semester on Friday at Weill Hall.

Alexander Kahn, conductor of the Sonoma State University Symphony Orchestra prefaced the concert by saying, “The word concerto can mean many different things.” 

This point was validated by the wide variety of musical compositions that the orchestras played throughout the night.

The performance began when the brass section of the Santa Rosa Junior College Orchestra took the stage and opened with a brief piece called “Canzon per Sonare No. 2,” by Italian Composer Giovanni Gabrieli. This piece was one of the few compositions of the night that featured polyphonic style, where each component of the brass section plays a different melody, and each unique melody links together into one harmonious whole. The song is in a major key, and its cheerful, upbeat nature set the tone for the rest of the concert.

After this introductory song, the rest of the Santa Rosa Junior College Orchestra came onstage to join the brass section. Once the full orchestra had found their seats and tuned their instruments, they embarked on their journey through the three main compositions that comprised the first half of the concert. The orchestra began with “Karelia Suite,” an impassioned three-part piece by Finnish Composer Jean Sibelius. The first movement is a dynamic intermezzo that constantly builds and releases tension through the alternation between crescendos and diminuendos. The second movement is a beautifully mournful string composition in a minor key, and the final movement is a lively conclusion that uses a major key and loud, upbeat percussion to contrast against the preceding melancholy, and to signify a happy ending.

The Santa Rosa Junior College Orchestra then moved on to their final two pieces for the night, which were Beethoven’s “Romance in F Major,” and Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8 in G major.” The former featured accomplished violin soloist Aaron Westman, while the latter showcased the collective talent of the orchestra, as it was arguably the most technical and complex piece they played.

After a brief intermission, the string section of the Sonoma State Symphony Orchestra came on stage and played Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Concerto in A Major,” which is subtitled, “The Frogs.” 

Aaron Westman took the position of the violin soloist and leader for this piece as well. Before beginning the piece, Westman explained, “This song is supposed to be a chorus of frogs, so there’s lots of ribbiting.” 

The string ensemble then began playing a piece that centered on a repeated two-note violin motif that could perhaps be likened to the sound of a frog, with a stretch of the imagination. Westman gave another virtuosic performance as he nimbly lead the chorus of frogs through a fast-paced, upbeat composition.

Gifted saxophone soloist, Megan Rice came on stage after this first concerto, and with the string ensemble, they performed Alexander Glazunov’s “Concerto for Saxophone and Strings.” Rice displayed an extraordinary level of technical proficiency with her saxophone, and after her performance, she left the stage with three bouquets of flowers.

STAR // Bryce Dowd

Finally, the rest of the Sonoma State Orchestra joined the string section on stage, and together with trumpet soloist Zachary Hall, they concluded the night by playing Alexander Arutiunia’s“Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra.” This was a diverse piece that featured subtle hints of South American compositional styles, such as Hall’s fiery trumpet soloing, and the occasional clave rhythmic pattern punctuated by plucked cello and bass strings.

After the performance, friends and family members alike rushed to congratulate the musicians in the main lobby of Weill Hall. 

“I think (the show) went really well. The concerto soloists did an amazing job. Megan and Zach were both fabulous,” said Haley Sambrano, a sophomore at Sonoma State and flute player for the Sonoma State University Symphony Orchestra.

The cheering and celebration of the people in the lobby were evidence that Sambrano’s opinion was likely shared by most of the other performers and attendees.

Check the Green Music Center event calendar page on their website for the the remaining three performances this semester.