The Geneseo Symphony Orchestra, assisted by the Geneseo Festival Chorus, performed last Sunday afternoon for a full crowd of students, faculty and community members in Wadsworth auditorium.
The show featured works by two of Russia's most renowned composers, Alexander Glazounov and Sergei Prokofiev.
The first half of the performance featured the Symphony Orchestra directed by distinguished service professor of the School of the Arts, James Walker. He led the musicians in a rousing rendition of Glazounov's "Autumn" from "The Seasons Op. 67," which, according to the program, "remains one of [the composer's] most popular works."
"Autumn" was a lively, lengthy number. It oscillated in mood between the gentle calm of the season and the rush and fury of the impending colorful change in nature. Walker's conducting and the orchestra's performance brought a powerful and uplifting piece of music to Wadsworth Auditorium that culminated with a tremendous finish.
Following a brief intermission, the Prokofiev half of the concert commenced. For this composition, "Alexander Nevsky Cantata, Op. 78," the orchestra was joined by the Festival Chorus at the back of the stage conducted by associate professor of the School of the Arts Gerard Floriano. According to the program, the "Cantata" was written for the film Alexander Nevsky, and "was composed of 21 sections." The chorus and orchestra performed seven of the sections.
The chorus sang in Russian during the second, fourth, sixth and seventh sections of the Cantata. The lyrics told the story of historic Russian battles against the Mongols, the Swedish Army and most notably the Teutonic Knights.
Slideshows with English subtitles depicting the scenes that the chorus was singing about proved to be a helpful aid to listeners trying to follow along with the information in the singing.
Each of the sections evoked their own emotions, from the slow and foreboding "Russia Beneath the Yoke of the Mongols" to the uplifting and patriotic "Arise, People of Russia."
As the program suggested though, the fifth section, "The Battle on the Ice," was the true climax of the performance. It captured the anticipation of battle with its subtle beginning and the thrill of victory for Russia as the day's struggle comes to an end.
The penultimate section, "The Field of the Dead," was particularly memorable for the performance of Eastman School of Music doctorate student, mezzo-soprano Katherine Maroney.
Maroney has performed notable roles in several operas at academic as well as professional venues. According to her biography in the program, she "made her professional debut in Milan, Italy, with Orchestra Sinfonica Milano di Giuseppe Verdi."
Maroney's solo as a young peasant girl mourning the fallen soldiers around her was endearing and professionally done. However, her overly theatrical stage presence proved an unnecessary attempt to bring an operatic intensity to her solo, and could have been done without.
School of the Arts orchestra concerts tend to have a stigma among students of being "dull," but the Geneseo Symphony Orchestra and Geneseo Festival Chorus joint concert was an undeniably enjoyable and exhilarating afternoon of entertainment complete with quality material and quality performances.