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CSO Concert Review - in Symphony Hall

Joshua Iyer

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Published: November 8, 2014 at 5:45 AM [UTC]

This is the first time I’ve seen the CSO perform in Chicago in Symphony Hall, and it was a fantastic experience. First of all, while the bus ride there was long, I got to have a good time talking about the New World Symphony and other musical things with my friends, since I went with my orchestra. When we stepped off on this cool night, we headed into the main building, which was much different than when I went to see Ravel’s piece in August. There were very lavish, exquisite red carpets on the floors, with beautiful banisters as well. Becca and I marched up several flights of stairs to find our seats. Mine was close to the edge of the banister, where we sat in the balcony, so I could see the entire orchestra from a bird’s-eye perspective. As they warmed up, I was already busy composing a little in my notebook. :)

Then, the concert began! They opened up with the Brahm’s “Hungarian Dances, Nos. 17-21”. Dvorak orchestrated these, which was cool. Each one had a small flavour to it, offering what the orchestra could do. Next, there was the Bruch Violin Concerto, which I saw my friend Andrew with his violin part for. It was truly a mastered piece by Urioste, and I liked the fact that the three movements blended in together, like my Rimsky-Korsakov Piano Concerto I’m currently working on. They were filled with various styles, which offered lots of uniqueness to the piece and for the soloist to work with.

Finally, the piece I’d been waiting for after an intermission (with more composing): the “New World Symphony”. As I listened to this for the third time this week, hearing sections of it over again on recordings, I realized how much of the piece seemed to be inspired by nature and the prairies of America, similarly to how inspired I am with nature when I go on morning walks and compose. The timpani part bringing out the diminished chords in the first movement was really incredible to hear. Of course, the famous melody in the second movement was beautiful, and again in the first violins. During the oboe solo, the strings were very conscious of the melody being in that instrument. During the Scherzo, the brass continued to play that older theme with pride, with the violins etching away at themes from the first movement. (Every time the violins were faced with runs of sixteenth notes or triplets, they tackled each of these with pride and virtuosity. The CSO really is amazing!) Finally, of course, the epic fourth movement was just as I’d heard it in recordings, only now I could actually feel each of the brass tones with their motif. The piece ended with a grand E major chord that faded out in the brass, a really unique ending that I really liked.

Overall, I was very pleased with the experience I had tonight. It was a Friday party night, and as I don’t get this opportunity very often, it was not only nice to go hear the orchestra but also that I got to listen with friends around me, and chat with them about the music. The CSO, as always, did an amazing job, and it made me very inspired to really practice violin this weekend (as I will most definitely do). This is an experience everyone must see, because it sets the bar incredibly high for what a symphony orchestra really can accomplish.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on November 8, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Thank you for sharing your experience. I grew up in the Chicago metro area, too, except for a few years of high school in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Your account brings back memories of visiting the CSO's home hall and later on playing a couple of seasons there as a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO's training school.

The New World Symphony was a significant piece in my growing-up years. In Civic, it was one of the pieces we tackled. I had already listened to it some years earlier. How could I ever forget this unique score? No way -- not possible. The CSO is an exceptionally accomplished ensemble. It was a blessing, indeed, to work directly with several of its section principals during my Civic training days -- among them, the late co-concertmaster Victor Aitay.

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