Performing pieces such as Cherubini's "Symphony in D," John Adams' "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra" and Schubert's "Symphony No. 3 in D," the SPCO made quite the impression, due to their unique and entrancing ability to work together as one.
One of the few full-time professional chamber orchestras in the world, SPCO makes a point of performing at St. Olaf at least once every year. They keep an intimate number of players in order to perform with complete communication and assurance.
"As a violinist, I was very impressed with their sound and how well they worked together," Miki Heine '11 said.
The orchestra members act as one body. While many fine orchestras around the world will perform well with all their bows pointing in the same direction and everyone breathing together, the SPCO goes a step further. Instead of their bows heading in the same direction, all members have their bows in the same place and play with precisely the same speed. They look to one another, instead of relying solely on the conductor, to move together, thus creating a unified and glorious sound.
Since each individual player's sound makes an impact on the overall effect, each player is dutifully responsible to match his or her neighbors in tone, bow speed and placement.
"There are fewer of them [in the SPCO] than in most orchestras so each player is far more exposed as an individual. They have to work harder and more determinedly to achieve the level of confidence they have, but it is that confidence which manifests itself into their energetic playing," music professor Charles Gray said. It is precisely this energy which engages the audience.
The performance of John Adam's "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra," which featured guest violinist Leila Josefowicz, was the most engaging part of the event. This modern concerto tells the story of a dream by exploring the relationship between the body and the subconscious. The orchestra represents the body, and the soloist, Josefowicz, is the dream.
This piece, which celebrates modern composing, also featured two synthesizers, which added to the effect of being lost in a subconscious realm of one's own head with their haunting sounds and counter harmonies. As the synthesizers tolled bells and the orchestra followed with the famous Pachabel cannon theme, the sound chilled the audience with the juxtaposition of the familiar with the strange.
As Josefowicz explained at the opening of the concert, each movement involves its own take of the dream. The first movement, "Quarter Note = 78" paints the picture of a mysterious, ethereal mist which washes over the dreamer. Josefowicz called this section her "pseudo Miles Davis - John Coltrane mix."
The second movement is aptly named. "Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows" explores the relationship between the soloist and orchestra through their passing back and forth melodies and dominance, just as a person struggles in their sleep to overcome or succumb to a dream. Finally, the third movement is the "Toccare" which Josefowicz described as a party because of its flying melodies and energetic nature.
All were impressed by Josefowicz's performance. The concerto ran just under 45 minutes, and yet, she performed entirely from memory with such vigor and energy that many, especially those who were seated up front, were left astounded with her virtuosity.
"[Josefowicz] was so intense. It's amazing how much she was moving and yet how precise she was with every not," Geoff Carlisle '10 said.
This highly impressive and superb concert showcased some of the most professional and virtuosic players around. The ability of the orchestra to work so seamlessly together along with their energy and vitality made it a concert none will soon forget.