The Geneseo Symphony Orchestra performed numerous concertos featuring the student winners of the 2014 Concerto Competition in Wadsworth Auditorium on Sunday April 12. This year, four winners performed a solo and six winners performed as a duo.
Generally, concertos are grand-scale, technically-demanding pieces that test the musical ability of the soloist. Playing at this level with the orchestra is not only daunting, but also requires as much energy as running a full marathon.
According to associate professor of music Amy Stanley, the hardest part of playing a concerto in the orchestra setting is that a soloist has to “keep the train running” no matter what happens during the piece. In other words, a soloist has to constantly lead the orchestra while playing a technically difficult piece as expressively and musically as possible.
Violinist and one of two concerto masters in the Geneseo Symphony Orchestra senior Robert Gaglione performed the first movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 35.” In spite of all these difficulties, Gaglione played eloquently.
Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto”—whose famous theme has been used in movies—is considered one of the most technically difficult pieces for the violin. Tchaikovsky wrote the piece during his recovery from depression after his dreadful arranged marriage—which was settled in an attempt to hide his homosexuality from the public. In order to complete the piece, violinist Iosif Kotek helped Tchaikovsky when he encountered technical issues writing the violin solo parts. The first movement of this piece in particular exudes a great ambiance, perhaps because Tchaikovsky was in love with Kotek at that time.
Gaglione—who has been playing the violin for 17 years—fully expressed the intricacies of this piece and showcased his ability to play technical passages, especially at the cadenza.
Another challenging piece performed at the concert was Claude Debussy’s “Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet,” played by clarinetist senior Nicholas Ellsworth. Debussy wrote the piece as a graduation examination for the clarinet students at the Paris Conservatory. He composed the piece with a piano first and then orchestrated it one year later.
Ellsworth expressed the various aspects of this piece by controlling the tone and paying attention to subtlety—which is an important element of 20th century French music—throughout his performance. Notably, Ellsworth also plays the tenor saxophone in the Geneseo Monday Night Jazz Ensemble, studies piano with Stanley and composes extensively.
Other winners include cellist junior Harrison Hartsough, baritone singer senior CJ Roche, tenor singer senior Rahul Thandla, soprano singer senior Jane Coons, flutists junior Holly DeSmitt and sophomore Megan Martel and clarinetists senior Justin Morris and senior Daniel Miserendino.