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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Guest Conductor Leads Symphony Orchestra

Music has a way of penetrating the mind, heart and soul of an individual. It incites not only feelings, but also thoughts and aspirations. When the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra took the Staller Center Main Stage on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 6, the group was able to use its musical talent to do just that.

Guest conductor Rossen Milanov led the orchestra in playing three classical pieces, each requiring the orchestra’s mastering of different musical techniques. The group played Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leonore “Overture No. 3,” movements from Arnold Schoenberg’s “Piano Concerto, op. 42,” and movements from Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 5 in E-flat.”

The first piece introduced the orchestra to the audience as an instrument of power, as its control of dynamics and tempo were displayed to be infinitely greater than the control of many younger, less experienced orchestras. The winds did not overtake the strings as the piece alternated between delicate, muted tones and louder, more dynamic portions.

The interplay of the sections was made evident as the conductor enthusiastically moved not only his arms, but his entire body, to help convey the mood of the song to the orchestra members and the audience. The group sounded most dynamic when all sections played together, producing a sound that was intense and awe-inspiring.

Throughout the entire piece, and the entire concert, not one violin bow was noticeably out of synch with the others. The group’s enthused pizzicato, a technique that the players employ by plucking the strings rather than using the bow to play, showed its expertise. Their skill was shown further through the players’ hand movements, as they skillfully and subtly incorporated vibrato, a technique in which the players slightly move their fingers as they rest on the strings in order to create a resonating effect. Soft, intense pianos, the lower dynamic range, forced the audience to listen more closely, encouraging focus.

The second piece began when Benjamin Smith, a Canadian pianist and winner of the 2009 to 2010 Concerto Competition, walked onto the stage and took a seat at the piano. Seemingly without looking at any form of sheet music, Smith began the piece with a solo. The orchestra eventually joined him in playing the piece, which had a kind of theatrical element.

Parts sounded worthy of a horror film, as if it were almost in disharmony at times. The bass players used a bass slapping technique to add to the intensity of the piece, making slapping noises by physically slapping their basses; the piano conversed with the trombones, as each trombone part seemed to be a response to each piano part. The enveloping structure of the piece highlighted the pianist, as the piano both began and ended the piece as a whole.

Smith’s solos seemed to always come out of silence. Though he seemed to be so engulfed in the music that he was very much in his own world, it was easy to tell that he also realized that he was within an orchestra at the same time. Milanov conducted as if he were about to fly off the stage with enthusiasm.

The orchestra’s third piece, composed of three movements, exhibited the fluttering sounds of the woodwinds, the soft tremelos of the upper strings, a technique for which string players repeatedly alternate two notes as quickly as possible for a set amount of time. Also exhibited was the increased excitement of the conductor as the piano was moved out of the way, providing him with more freedom for arm and body movement. As he conducted the piece, the musical tone followed his movements. As his body movements became more mild, so did the music, and his arms began to move in a more gentle, graceful, and delicate manner.

The piece was intense, as the fluttering of the flute and the puttering of the upper strings acted as an intermission to the grand, majestic sounds of the horns and lower strings. The players were animated and engaged in their piece. The piece concluded in a grand and dramatic way, with notes that pulsated through the entire auditorium. The audience applauded as the conductor exited through the hidden door on the stage.

“It was very entertaining,” said Everett Coraor, an undecided freshman. “Even to my untrained ear, the orchestra proved to be a much needed reprieve from modern radio, and was both relaxing and enthralling. I definitely would like to see the orchestra perform again, and look forward to its future events.”

The Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra will next perform on Saturday, Dec. 4, conducted by Eduardo Leandro and David Lawton.

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