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Thursday, June 8, 2023


Review: Orchestra, choir performance strikes a chord

Student ensembles brought nothing less than music to the ears with their performance this weekend at the Moores Opera House.

The concert, which featured the collaborative work of the combined choirs — Concert Chorale, Concert Women’s Chorus, University Men’s Chorus and the University Women’s Chorus — and the Moores School Symphony Orchestra explored a number of genres in the musical repertory.

The first thing that the audience noticed is that the orchestra is noticeably beefier — both visually and aurally.

“The string section is the largest that we’ve ever had,” said Franz Anton Krager, director of the Moores School Symphony Orchestra. “It’s wonderful for everyone involved.”

The choice of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Festival Overture,” demonstrated the lushness of the string section. The piece is special for being constructed from liturgical material of the Orthodox Church and is counted among Rimsky-Korsakov’s more popular works, along with “Scheherazade” and the “Capriccio Espagnol.”

In the “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra” by Roland Szentpali, tuba soloist Derek Fenstermacher performed to general acclaim.

“Derek is the winner of our Concerto Competition, which is a major feat in and of itself,” said Krager. “What makes it more incredible is that he won it with the tuba.”

Pierre-Alain Chevalier directed the following number, Ravel’s “Alborada del Gracioso.” Chevalier is a doctoral candidate at the Moores School of Music coming from the Hart School of Music in Connecticut.

In the grand finale, Krager returned to the stage to direct Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria.” Poulenc was part of a group of composers called “Les Six,” a term coined by Henri Collet. The group responded to and sometimes against the impressionist movement and romanticism in many ways, sometimes incorporating their stylistic characteristics, other times mocking them and rejecting them altogether.

The choice of “Gloria” is what brought together the combined choirs and the symphony orchestra.

“With the choirs, I never have to worry about fundamentals,” Krager said. “I could tell in the first 10 seconds that it was going to be wonderful.”

Poulenc’s “Gloria” is a challenging work, involving many innovative compositional techniques such as planing, chromaticism and often un-speechlike accentuations that generate a sort of odd humor.

Juxtaposition accurately describes the performance of “Gloria” because of its contrast of angular lines with flourishing melodies. This emphasis on contrast demands flexibility, interplay and balance between the orchestra, choir and soprano soloist Cynthia Clayton — all of whom rose to the occasion.


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