By Ed Kliszus

NEW YORK – The Orchestra Now Performs Mendelssohn and Sibelius

This evening, listeners enjoyed a marvelous concert featuring the Bard College symphony orchestra, aka The Orchestra Now or TŌN, in the Peter J. Sharp Theater at Manhattan’s Peter Norton Symphony Space.

Melodies, Virtuosity, and Drama

New Yorkers love an excellent symphony orchestra concert, and today’s musical experience delivered! Audience members left with hearts echoing with melodies, virtuosity, drama, and perhaps a profound sense of gratitude and wonder. For in tonight’s moments of musical transcendence, they experienced the sublime and now carry the memory of this magical night.

Hearts Aflutter with Excitement

A large audience lined up on 96th Street as anticipation hummed like a vibrant melody. Music lovers, hearts aflutter with excitement, were caught in a whirlwind of emotions as they waited for the doors to open. Musicians assembled on stage as the air crackled with energy, charged with the collective anticipation of fellow music enthusiasts who had gathered eagerly for the auditory feast to come.

As lights dimmed and Maestro Zachary Schwartzman walked to the podium and raised his baton, a hush fell over the audience, deafening in intensity in but a prelude to tonight’s sonic journey.

Zachary Schwartzman, Conductor. Courtesy Bard.edu

Zachary Schwartzman, Conductor. Courtesy Bard.edu

Hearts raced in anticipation as the first strains of Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture resonated through the hall in a symphony of sound that enveloped listeners in its embrace.

Euphoria and Joy

Music blocked worries and cares at this moment, replacing them with an overwhelming sense of euphoria and joy. Listeners became active participants in a musical journey transcending time and space, uniting them with fellow travelers in a shared celebration of the artistic human spirit.

Victor Hugo

You may recall Victor Hugo’s play “Ruy Blas,” which has themes of love, betrayal, and political intrigue that captured Mendelssohn’s imagination and inspired tonight’s musical homage. Mendelssohn’s overture served as a prelude to the dramatic events of the play and perhaps tonight’s concert works, setting the stage for an unfolding emotional journey. The orchestra aptly projected the musical narrative of cinematic sweep and grandeur, drawing listeners into spellbinding sonic theater.

Virtual World of Passion and Intrigue

One of the most striking features of Mendelssohn’s “Ruy Blas Overture” is its vivid orchestration and evocative use of musical themes. From the brooding, ominous opening bars to the triumphant fanfares that herald the climax, the overture emerged as a work of contrast, with moments of darkness and light, tension and release. The ensemble’s masterful projection of orchestral color and texture brought the drama of Hugo’s play to life, immersing listeners in its virtual world of passion and intrigue.

An Elegant, Shimmering Study

Violinist Yangxin Song ascended the stage to perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. From the onset, she commanded the work’s striking juxtapositions of lyrical melodies with bold, angular rhythms. From the hauntingly opening theme of the first movement to the frenetic energy of the finale, she projected Prokofiev’s work as an elegant, shimmering study in contrasts with glistening arpeggios, double stops, and virtuosic patterns blending moments of introspection with bursts of fiery intensity. Song conveyed Prokofiev’s struggle to navigate the competing demands of artistic freedom and political conformity he expressed through an innovative blend of traditional and modernist elements.

Yangzin Song, Violini. Courtesy Bard.edu

Yangzin Song, Violini. Courtesy Bard.edu

Treasure Awaiting Discovery

As each segment of the Violin Concerto No. 2 unfolded, melody and brilliance revealed themselves like a treasure awaiting discovery, each note a brushstroke on the canvas of Song’s artistic imagination. And as the final crescendo echoed through the hall, listeners were left breathless, enthralled by the sheer beauty and power of Song’s performance.

Vivid Sonic Landscapes

After intermission, the orchestra returned to perform Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1, a masterpiece of orchestra colors displayed by delicate woodwind solos to grand brass fanfares. The orchestra created vivid sonic landscapes, evoking the Finnish landscape’s vastness and the tumultuous emotional terrain of the human experience.

Refined Interpretation

The opening movement set the stage for the symphony’s musical sojourn with its bold brass statements and sweeping strings. In contrast, the ethereal beauty of the slow movement and the rhythmic energy of the scherzo demonstrated Sibelius’s versatility as a composer and the orchestra’s refined interpretation and skills. This performance by TŌN exemplified the Sibelius Symphony No. 1’s significance as a milestone in projecting Finnish national identity, inspiration from folk melodies and epic legends, pride, and nostalgia.

The Orchestra Now Performs Mendelssohn and Sibelius

Zachary Schwartzman, Conductor
Yangzin Song, Violinist

The Program

Felix Mendelssohn: Ruy Blas Overture

Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Yangxin Song, violin
Allegro moderato
Andante assai
Allegro, ben marcato

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 1
Andante, ma non troppo—Allegro energico
Andante (ma non troppo lento)
Scherzo: Allegro
Finale (Quasi una Fantasia)

Peter Norton Symphony Space

PETER JAY SHARP THEATRE
2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY 10025
Box Office: 212.864.5400

The Orchestra Now

ton.bard.edu / @theorchnow
BARD COLLEGE bard.edu

P.O. Box 5000
30 Campus Road
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson
NY 12504

845-752-2422

FIND MORE at bard.edu

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Peter and the WolfTranscendent Triumph and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2,  The American Symphony Orchestra and the Roaring 20s, The American Classical Orchestra presents a Romantic FantasyVenice City of Light at St. John the Divine, and The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.