The Geneseo Symphony Orchestra kicked off its spring season with renditions of compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven and Ottorino Respighi that left the audience highly impressed.
Freshman Louis Lohraseb, a music major who performed a solo recital on Feb. 21, made his conducting debut with the GSO in its performance of Beethoven's "Egmont Overture, Op. 84." Through the deliberate passages that marked the piece's opening and the lush melodic phrases of the strings, Lohraseb did a fine job of reconciling the different sections of the orchestra - which sometimes cannot hear one another well - and giving the instrumentalists the rhythmic guidance needed to achieve technical competency.
Jonathan Gonder, an accomplished pianist and the current dean of the School of the Arts, joined the orchestra for its interpretation of "Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb, Op. 73," known as Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto. Distinguished service professor James Walker led the orchestra as Gonder played from memory, tackling with proficiency the delicate trills and dual-hand melodies demanded by the piece.
The concerto featured lilted tempos that receded in the last minute of the piece, leaving only the distant heartbeat of a drum and a series of restrained piano chords, which were rejoined by the orchestra for a final hurrah. Gonder's performance garnered a standing ovation from the audience.
After a brief intermission, the orchestra began its performance of "Church Windows, Op. 150," composed in 1925 by Respighi. The poetic first movement included somber, sweeping string sections and the second featured a rousing opening, during which the horn sections thundered over chromatic slides in the upper strings. The piece was not without gentler moments, however; solos from the wind instruments accented the movement and were a treat to listen to.
The second movement ended with the ominous ring of a gong which faded into silence that permeated the audience until, after a few moments, a melancholy chorus of horns joined sorrowful octave of strings. The orchestra must be commended for bringing out the gorgeous textures of Respighi's work, accenting foreboding phrases in the lower registers of the cello and piano and engulfing the auditorium with sound in sections of the piece that referenced Gregorian chants.
Geneseo resident Barbara Schmied said she has attended many of the concerts put on by the orchestra but said, "This is the best one yet."
The GSO is made up of over 60 students from all majors whose work is complemented by the presence of professional faculty from the School of the Arts. The group will next perform at the Concerto Competition Winner's Concert on April 11, which will feature a performance from Lohraseb as well as from seniors Shannon Alexander, Lindsay Borglum, Nathaniel Gworek and Jevan Malaviya.