On Sunday Oct. 16, Wadsworth Auditorium was filled with the dramatic, evocative and awe-inspiring melodies of the Geneseo Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Walker.
The concert opened with Edvard Grieg's 64th opus "Symphonic Dances." The piece was epic in scope and perfectly designed for a symphony orchestra, with numerous call-and-response exchanges between the wind and string instruments. The performers transitioned seamlessly from pleasant, trilling movements to ground-shaking minor chords, culminating in a thunderous finale that prompted instantaneous applause.
Following "Symphonic Dances" was "The Swan of Tuonela (from Four Legends)" by Jean Sibelius. The piece, inspired by the legendary swan that floats on the black river in Finnish mythology's hell, was eerie and atmospheric, a soft enigma of sound that perfectly evoked the mysterious setting. Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Geneseo faculty member Anna Steltenpohl played a hauntingly smooth solo on English horn that soared above the rest of the instruments.
The ending of the piece was especially unsettling because when the instruments faded out, an unusually strong wind shook the auditorium, prompting excited murmurs in the audience.
After a brief intermission, music department chair Jonathan Gonder took center stage with a grand piano to lead the second Edvard Grieg piece, "Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Orchestra." His seemingly effortless flourishes and trills sometimes overpowered the rest of the instruments, largely because of the placement of the piano. By the third movement, however, his melody was darting in and out with playful and impressive enthusiasm, creating a beautiful interplay between the piano and the rest of the instruments on stage.
Throughout the concert, each orchestra member displayed incredible control and musicality, blending expertly with the other members of their sections and the group as a whole. Under the expert conducting of Walker, the orchestra swelled and diminished, slowed and sped up as a unified entity of sound in spite of the eclectic nature of its instruments.
The show drew a number of students as well as community members ranging in age from toddlers to senior citizens, demonstrating the universal appeal offered by such a talented orchestra and showing that classical music is far from dead.