Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra showcases Italian influence

The performance will feature two pieces: “Flute Concerto in E minor” by Saverio Mercadante and “Symphony No. 1 in D Major” by Gustav Mahler.

by Lauren Segal | 10/27/17 12:05am

The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by acclaimed flutist Luciano Tristaino, will perform its annual fall concert at the Spaulding Auditorium in the Hopkins Center for the Arts on Saturday. With this performance, the ensemble intends to celebrate its upcoming collaboration with the Conservatory of Siena. 

Filippo Ciabatti, music director and conductor of the DSO, views this performance as an opportunity to highlight the international collaboration.

Tristaino is a professor of flute at the Conservatory of Siena and has also been its director since 2013.

Cheryl Chang ’18, a flutist in the DSO, is excited to play with the distinguished performer. 

“Having a soloist on stage is always a different experience for both the audience and the orchestra,” Chang said. “I think he’ll be able to inspire the musicians to be better at what we do and give us another look at why we’re doing music.”

The performance will feature two pieces: “Flute Concerto in E minor” by Saverio Mercadante and “Symphony No. 1 in D Major” by Gustav Mahler. 

Written in 1813, “Flute Concerto in E minor” demonstrates Mercadante’s reputation as a refined opera composer of the Neapolitan tradition. Ciabatti noted that the Mercadante piece was chosen to pay homage to his and Tristaino’s Italian heritage. 

“We selected this Italian concerto because we thought, being both of us Italian, it would be meaningful,” Ciabatti said.

Chang said that the Mahler piece will allow the DSO to explore a large-scale unlike the works typically featured by the orchestra. 

“Mahler isn’t that often performed because it’s such a grand-scale piece and it requires a lot of manpower,” Chang said. “It’s not often that people will willingly hire six horns for a piece like this. Especially in a Hanover setting.”

In addition to the technical challenges the Mahler piece poses, it requires the emotional dedication of the players.

“It’s technically difficult, but it’s also an emotionally exhausting piece to play,” Kyu Kim ’18, a bassoon player, said. “[Ciabatti] mentions in rehearsal that we’re playing it too happily. It’s very driven by grief, and happiness is not the purpose of Mahler’s music.”

Despite the difficulties the piece introduces to the musicians, Kim believes that the Mahler will serve as an impressive spectacle for Saturday’s audience.

“I think Mahler is just a very big and famous piece to play; it’s like a statement piece,” Kim said. “The orchestra will raise its standards of playing and performing by debuting this year’s season with the piece.”

Ciabatti noted the importance of both pieces in challenging the technical prowess of the DSO.

“I think that both these pieces are very beneficial to the orchestra, in very different ways,” Ciabatti said. “The Mercadante is surely a different style for us — it really entails playing a certain kind of Italian music that is not very explored — but has been very influential in this century because the Neapolitan school of opera has been the school for many musicians, including Mozart.”

Ciabatti expressed interest in building the ensemble’s reputation beyond Dartmouth in the upcoming year.

“I think these works are so important in building a symphonic repertoire and a certain confidence and quality of playing that will help us when we go abroad,” Ciabatti said. “The musical commitment and collaboration will help us sail towards joining forces with the players at the Siena Conservatory.”

The performance has required the constant attention of the orchestra, whose members have been dedicated to delivering a quality performance to the Spaulding stage. Three hours of rehearsals are held twice a week, in addition to sectional rehearsals once a week. Concert week, however, mandates five days of three-hour rehearsal. While the obligatory rehearsals already demand the musicians’ time and effort, many dedicate additional free time to practice, both Kim and Chang said.

Ciabatti commended the students’ commitment to delivering excellence in their performance.

“The students are very committed, and the quality that we expect is very high,” Ciabatti said. “It’s always a great journey where we start together and we see where we end up. I’m grateful for this journey, and I recognize the hard work that everyone put into this project.”

Kim said that he regards this performance as an opportunity to not only celebrate the DSO’s collaboration with the Conservatory in Siena, but also experience an emotional connection to iconic pieces of classical music.

“The music takes you on an emotional journey, and I think that’s why people should attend,” Kim said. “The purpose of the music is to have an emotional impact when people listen to it, and I think that these pieces accomplish that.”