NU Symphony Orchestra Concert : Reviewed

By Spencer Schaffer

A night of Beethoven, Strauss, and Sibelius: three of history’s most prominent and innovative composers come together in a magnificent musical trifecta, performed by the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra. Fearlessly led by the acclaimed Maestro Victor Yampolsky and comprised of ambitious music students, the orchestra is one of the best in the collegiate world, and continues to break new ground every time they perform.


The concert began suitably with Leonore Overture No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven. This thirteen-minute overture to his 1805 opera Fidelio was filled with flourishing woodwinds, sustained brass, and sweeping strings. The orchestra treated the style of Beethoven with apt skill, expertly adhering to the unique musical commands of the notorious composer. Following the overture was a Richard Strauss fan-favorite; “Tod und Verklärung,” which translates to Death and Transfiguration. This deeply contemplative tone poem that explores the concept of dying and the afterlife, was impressively executed by the ensemble by means of appropriate phrasing, dynamic precision, and blend. The expressive capabilities of an ensemble this large was quite remarkable, as each individual player was able to comprehensively meld their single part into the greater whole for an overall effect. This is an extremely challenging task for an orchestra to undertake, and many groups often struggle with achieving it.

After intermission, the audience is met with the strong and emotional forces of Jean Sibelius. The stunningly beautiful melodies and rapturous technical demands of the piece were performed at quite a high level of professionalism, which demands both an athletic mind and deft muscular control, necessities that are all too familiar to the committed students in the Bienen School of Music. Despite pushing the limits of the meaning of “forte” at times, the orchestra united as a whole to bring Sibelius’s music to life in an energetic performance.

The Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, as well as all concerts held at the Bienen School of Music, are open to the public and offer a special student rate. There are typically several concerts a week, showcasing student musicians as well as acclaimed professionals in a wide array of artist series and concert cycles. There is plenty of opportunity to experience world-class music in your backyard, so go out, attend a concert, and support your fellow peers!


Steven Norwalk