LC Orchestra Stuns Flanagan Chapel

By Sydney Owada /// Opinions Editor

A conversation between violin, cello, and piano filled Flanagan Chapel at the start of the Lewis & Clark Orchestra’s performance, and Claude Debussy’s “Piano Trio in G Major, L.3” (Spencer Mackey, violin; Nicholas Krieg, cello; Samantha Macfarlane, piano) served as an exquisite opening for the concert. Each instrument wove itself between the other two in a dialogue in which violin responded to cello and piano with sweeping notes. As the piano formed the foundation of the piece, the strings built a pinnacle that, once reached, caused the eyes of the performers to close in a bliss that was surely felt by the audience witnessing such artistry. Completion of the piece was signaled by a lingering pause that allowed the final note to reverberate off the chapel walls, leaving the audience in breathless anticipation for the rest of the show.

The rest of the orchestra was introduced in Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” a fast-paced and somewhat short piece that mixed fanfare bursts with whimsically meandering notes. Delicate and quick violin sections gave way to more legato sections that swelled with the joining of more strings, brass, and winds. A switching between strings and winds created a playful and well-managed balance throughout the piece, these being accompanied by more shifts between fanfare bursts (complete with the excited crashing of cymbals) and frantic strings. An impressive crescendo paired with an increase in tempo carried the orchestra to the satisfyingly loud and emphatic end of the piece.

In a drastic departure from the previous piece, the orchestra transitioned into George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings,” a piece whose melancholy melody is voiced chiefly by its five violins and mimicked by the cello and bass. The strings flow in and out of a harmony that obviously mirrors the composer’s lamentation of his grandmother’s death (the woman to whom the piece is dedicated). These static moments follow an overall linear character, taking the audience through two climaxes that return to a finish that reflects the earlier pulse of the piece.

The somber tone continued as the night moved on to Edward Elgar’s “Concerto for Cello in E Minor, Op. 85: I. Adagio – Moderato,” featuring cellist Nicholas Krieg. The backdrop of this piece is the conclusion of the First World War, thus the piece is an outpouring of grief from the composer for his country (England) in the wake of this tragedy. Though the piece’s theme is simple and hardly harmonized, the LC Orchestra superbly conveys this sorrow in its performance. While the cello dominates the beginning, the rest of the strings compliment this solitary song with an equally lonely crescendo. Bass notes add to the grave undertones and the weight of war is heavy upon the brass and wind instruments, though in some moments the winds carry lightness into the piece.

In a few instances, the strings add a brief sharpness to the legato upsurge of the rest of the group. The cello leads into the final impassioned crescendo and, when all else quiets, the cello remains, carrying the piece through its somber descent in low, pondering notes to the finish.

Image Courtesy of Lewis & Clark College
Image Courtesy of Lewis & Clark College

For its final piece, the orchestra returns to a more playful and dramatically classic composition: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 35 in d Major (‘Haffner’),” composed of a total of four movements. The first and fourth movements carry most of the piece’s excitement, whereas the second and third are of a more passive nature; the orchestra does a fine job of staying true to these intended dynamics throughout. Great precision is demonstrated by the strings in the first movement while bursts from the brass and winds add emphasis by complementing the softer sections. The strings continue to be supported well by the wind and brass instruments in the second movement, the refined staccato of the violins dance into a legato section with the rest of the group. The strings swim together within the third movement and are partnered by the brass and winds that occasionally punch through the strings to give way to a legato section that loops back to the staccato sections similar to those of the second movement.

The LC Orchestra performs a strong finish with the fourth movement, which provides a lively and definitive conclusion in a final burst of energy. This served as a well-marked and excellently delivered punctuation point to the evening of fine music and exquisite performance.

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