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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Orchestra caters to all ages

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, March 19, 2004

An unusually youthful crowd turned out for the St. Olaf Orchestras spring concert in Skoglund Auditorium on Sunday night. The concert, advertised as being "family-friendly," showcased the childrens classic "Peter and the Wolf."

The two-hour concert, conducted by Music Professor Steven Amundson, set a romantic springtime mood by opening with Felix Mendelssohns famous "Wedding March." Originally composed in 1843 for a staging of William Shakespeares "A Midsummer Nights Dream," the pieces majestic theme has since become a Hollywood nuptial cliché. The lesser-known lyrical middle section, however, was refreshingly rendered by the 91-member orchestra.

Next, Meredith Lotz '04, Tim Bradley '04, Erin Vork '04 and Laura Narhi '04 took center stage as featured soloists for the other showcase of the concert, the first movement of Robert Schumanns 1849 "Concertstücke for Four Horns and Orchestra." This demanding work alternated soaring, virtuosic horn lines with an emotionally rich orchestral accompaniment. Amundson praised the quartet as representative of "one of the finest horn sections Ive had in 23 years of conducting the St. Olaf Orchestra."

The first half of the program closed with Sergei Prokofievs symphonic fairy tale "Peter and the Wolf," an appropriate piece for an audience that included many local children.

Gary Gisselman, artistic director of the St. Olaf Theater, narrated the 1936 piece, known for its famous character themes including Peter, Grandfather, the cat and the wolf.

Gisselman added humor to the performance by pausing at the musical introduction of the hunters  portrayed by the bass drum and timpani  to remind the audience that "St. Olaf College bans guns in these premises."

Bassoonist Katherine Mabuce 05 said she enjoyed being assigned the Grandfather theme in "Peter and the Wolf."

"Its not often that I get to play the part of an angry old man," Mabuce said.

Prokofievs classic composition also drew positive responses from audience members. Molly, a five-year-old from Northfield, said that she "liked the cat," and that "the wolf wasnt that scary."

President Christopher Thomforde also enjoyed "Peter and the Wolf," but registered his surprise halfway through the piece when he realized he had "completely forgotten that the duck gets eaten."

After a brief intermission, the programs second half opened with 20th-century German-American composer Paul Hindemiths four-movement "Symphonic Metamorphosis," a complex synthesis of musical styles building to a bold, brassy finale.

The concert continued with Claude Debussys 1894 masterpiece "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," which Amundson called "one of my all-time favorites." This atmospheric work, which featured Shelly Wipf 04 on flute, employed a dazzling array of orchestral colors and textures in depicting a mythic landscape.

The concerts final number was "Summon the Heroes" by John Williams, a bombastic orchestral overture commissioned for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. Illustrative of various Olympic ceremonies and ideals, the works sections perfectly framed the pieces core, a gallant trumpet solo performed by Micah Wilkinson 06.

An appreciative audience responded to the concert with a lengthy standing ovation.

"I thought the concert went extremely well," Amundson said. "I was happy to have the program feature a few of my favorite pieces, as well as the horn section."

Violinist and co-concertmaster Christopher Noel '05 was also pleased with the audience's response. "This was probably one of the most enjoyable concerts we've given for a range of age groups," Noel said.

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