UCI Symphony Hits a High Note

Stephen Tucker, conductor and music professor, moved his hands majestically to lead the body of musicians in the concert “Distant Worlds” last Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, putting on another wonderful performance by the UC Irvine Symphony Orchestra.

As the timpani increased in tonepounding during the opening piece’s later half, the orchestra passionately performed an Allegro theme. Through effective collaboration, the orchestra recreated a familiar portion of Italian composer Giaochino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” popular in Western television series such as “Lone Ranger,” from Italian composer Giaochino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”

In the earlier half of the overture, flutes and an English horn filled the theater with elegance to create an atmosphere resembling daybreak. Although not entirely audible, two harps added sweet, melodic tones to the overall orchestra during the performance of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”

The orchestra had a challenging time becoming cohesive while playing Swiss-born, American composer Ernest Bloch’s “Suite for Viola and Orchestra” during the concert, making it difficult to comprehend Bloch’s musical arrangement.

Will Hunter, a fourth-year music major and UCI Symphony Orchestra’s principal timpani percussionist, explained the reason for the odd arrangement “Suite for Viola and Orchestra.”

“We only had two weeks to learn the music. There was a delay in the shipment of [sheet] music,” Hunter said.

Due to sudden tempo changes during the four movements of “Suite for Viola and Orchestra,” some instruments carried off-rhythm tones as if to create the sound of musical devices that were improperly tuned. Tempo oddities were well noted in the first and second movements as there were many breaks in the arrangement sometimes leading to moments of utter silence, especially the first movement.

Despite the changes in tempo and less than perfect execution of Bloch’s work, renowned and talented violist Dr. Jerzy Kosmala backed up the UCI Symphony Orchestra by performing a wonderful solo arrangement.

In contrast, the fourth movement, “Molto Vivo,” or “Land of the Sun (China)” as Bloch originally titled it, provided a pleasant atmosphere.

As the original title suggests, the fourth movement reflected on the distant world of China, which touches on the theme of the concert. Dr. Kosmala and fellow string instruments, such as the violin, viola, cello and string bass, provided a lively feeling, almost as if the audience is drawn into the distant setting of China. The lively sound of strings created a nice alternative to traditional Chinese instruments.

However, the nearly one-hour long finale of the orchestra, Antonin Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Opus 95,” often called “New World Symphony,” was impressive. As Tucker led the musical body, the orchestra had a passionate energy during the performance of Dvorak’s composition.

For Dvorak, composing the “New World Symphony” with Native American tunes and African-American songs was a new experience for him since he never encountered such cultures in his native Czech Republic.

The entire symphonsy had progressive builds that led to crescendo arcs with full cohesion from the orchestra. The most worthy movements were the second and fourth with melodic flutes and powerful brass and timpani.

Pierre Flores, violinist and fourth-year music major, believed that the orchestra had a strong performance based on hard work and hours of practice.

“I already know the piece in terms of the Dvorak. [I practiced] an hour a day,” Flores said

The best piece performed by the orchestra for Tucker was the “William Tell Overturn.” Flores said, “It [was] a little easier for them to concentrate [on].”

Despite some intital ups and downs from the overture to the lull seen throughout most of Bloch’s composition, by the end, the orchestra pulled through with a wonderful, energetic performance of Dvorak’s work.