REVIEW: SFA Symphony Orchestra hosts first concert of the semester

On Sept. 21, the SFA Symphony Orchestra hosted its first concert of the fall semester. Led by conductor Gregory Grabowski, the ensemble put on three well-performed works and gave a night of relaxing entertainment.  

The first piece played by the orchestra is one that holds a special place in my heart: Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Marquez. That being said, I had very high expectations going into this piece, and the orchestra did not disappoint. The energy of the musicians was very evident in their playing.

Watching the string sections move in time with their parts just added a level of enjoyability to this piece. I also greatly enjoyed the overall ensemble sound. While I believe there were many sections in which they could’ve pushed their softer dynamic contrasts, overall, the orchestra sounded very unified and together, especially the violins. 

While something about the trumpet solo seemed off, I enjoyed listening to the various solos and duets in the more exposed portions of this piece, and thought every soloist did a pretty good job. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of one of my favorite pieces.  

The Symphony Orchestra next performed Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s Suite Concertino in F. The Orchestra was also joined by special guest performer Margaret Fay on bassoon. This piece was quite long, containing four movements, each contrasting somewhat with each other. Of the four movements, my favorite would have to be the second, entitled Strimpellata. This movement was so fun to listen to. 

I personally wanted to twirl on stage while I listened to the intense technical sections performed wonderfully by the violins and Dr. Fay. An interesting thing to note about this piece is its orchestration. While the orchestra itself contains woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings, this piece cuts out the woodwinds (aside from the bassoon soloist) and most of the brass section.

Across all four movements of Suite Concertino, the ensemble showed off both their technical abilities and artistic capabilities, contrasting the short dance feel of Movement II with a much calmer, more lyrical Movement III, before combining them in various sections of Movement IV as the piece came to a close 

The third and final piece was composed by American composer Aaron Copland in the late 1930s and was originally used in a ballet setting. Billy the Kid Suite contains eight sections, each following various scenes in the ballet. The theatrical element of this piece is quite clear from its composition and the orchestra does a great job showing this.

They also do a very good job making sure the recurring themes, played at times in the oboes and violins, are clearly heard across the ensemble, helping to tie the piece together. This piece also contains many great build-ups from the orchestra, which were very exciting to listen to. At times, the ensemble felt a bit off, particularly in the brass sections towards the middle of the piece. However, this was quickly corrected.

This piece overall had a very cartoonish, playful feel that was enjoyable to listen to. I’d like to give a special shoutout to the flute soloist towards the beginning of the piece- you were so pleasant to listen to and had wonderful vibrato! 

Overall, I highly enjoyed the Symphony Orchestra’s concert, and would seriously recommend going to check out any of the ensembles over in the College of Music. If you need a relaxing night, one of these concerts is a great way to destress and just take a break.

Plus, SFA student tickets are only $3. If you’re interested, the Symphony Orchestra has several upcoming events, including another concert on Oct. 26, all of which can be found on the SFA College of Fine Arts website.  

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