Something old and something new: University Chambers Orchestra showcases the talents of tomorrow by playing the classics of yesterday

The University Chamber Orchestra, an elite classical string group comprised of members of the Utah Philharmonia, filled Libby Gardner Hall last Tuesday with a unique blend of traditional works and the world premiere of a new piece written by U faculty member Gerald Elias.

The first work played, composed by Felix Mendelssohn when he was only 16 years old, was “Sinfonia X.”

The influence of J.S Bach, a composer held in high esteem by Mendelssohn, is clearly visible through the fugal technique and polyphony of the piece. The last few moments of the Allegro movement offer a climatic finale of flying fingers and heavy bows that threatened to overshadow whatever was played next.

However, this was not the case, as the more subdued “Andante Cantabile,” a composition by Tchaikovsky, offered a refreshing contrast from the intensity of the Mendelssohn.

Originally written as a movement for a string quartet, “Andante Cantabile” gained so much popularity that it has often been arranged for chamber orchestras and, more rarely, complete symphonies.

The effect of the 30 or so members of the Chamber Orchestra performing a piece normally played by a quartet only augmented an already stellar composition.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening came in the orchestra’s third work, an original composition by U faculty violinist Gerald Elias. His “Overture in Classical Style” was a delightful piece that brought to mind comparisons of Mozart and early Beethoven. A smaller number of musicians were required to play the Elias piece, making the entire work more intimate and the interaction between sections more obvious. It also allowed for a beautiful solo from concertmaster Amanda Chamberlain, whose virtuosity speaks worlds for the talent of the entire orchestra.

The final work of the night came from the Director of the School of Music, Robert Walzel, personally conducting the U Woodwind Ensemble in Dvorak’s “Serenade for Winds.”

Before beginning, Walzel asked the audience members to close their eyes and imagine themselves in the Czech countryside, an effect that occurred regardless of whether or not the audience complied.

Usually confined to supporting roles in symphonic music, winds such as the clarinet, bassoon, oboe and flute were able to showcase their ability with perfect clarity.

As the elite musicians of the U, the Chamber Orchestra has high expectations to live up to. After Tuesday’s performance, little doubt remains that these students are very close to becoming the world-class musicians of tomorrow.

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