Orchestra to perform Berlioz and Copland

by Hallie Huffaker | 5/21/14 2:45pm

Coming up on their final concert of the year, members of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra are perfecting harmonies, working on their blend and fine tuning their fingerings. The group will be playing a diverse set this Saturday, combining Hector Berlioz’s passionate “Symphonie Fantastique” with Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

Violist Sam Libby ’17 described the feel of rehearsals leading up to this weekend’s performance as “efficient” and “professional.”

Tom Cheng ’15, the orchestra’s concertmaster, said that there is “an atmosphere of intense concentration” in the group’s rehearsals.

“Everyone is very committed to the central mission of learning a piece, mastering it and presenting it,” he said. “The orchestra seeks to learn and grow every concert, and that is one thing that I have really appreciated about this group.”

This focused atmosphere, Cheng said, is due in large part to conductor Anthony Princiotti, who serves as a valuable resource to his students both in and out of rehearsal. Other musicians said their conductor’s serious focus and emphasis on teaching the piece’s background and history inspire them to practice harder.

Alice Wang ’16, a violinist and one of the group’s managers, said she enjoys Princiotti’s anecdotes, which help the musicians connect with their music.

Princiotti familiarized his students with the dramatic emotions behind “Symphonie Fantastique,” Cheng said. The piece follows a young musician who fell in love with a woman and believed she did not love him back, became depressed and poisoned himself with opium. The piece is full of difficult orchestrations and very specific instructions for the musicians, Elizabeth Brissie ’17, a cellist, said.

Liliana Ma ’14, a violinist and the orchestra’s only senior, said that Berlioz calls for many instruments in the score, including a tubular bell with a low note that the group had to acquire from New York.

Brissie said that Berlioz’s specific instructions show that the conductor cared about the audience’s reactions to the piece.

“When he was writing the piece, he put so many comments in the score being specific about what number of players he wanted at that moment and what tempo exactly at that time,” she said.”

Wang said she enjoys the story attached to Berlioz’s piece, which she thinks will help the audience connect with the music.

“Audiences always wonder ‘what does this mean?’ but here the music really is telling a story that they can get into,” she said.

The musicians are also excited to show off Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” which Libby described as quintessential American music. Wang agreed, saying that the popular melody “Simple Gifts”, which the orchestra will perform last, exemplifies fundamental American values.

“There are these points when the whole orchestra stops at this one beat that we all know to stop at because we’ve rehearsed so much, and it’s a nice suspended moment,” Wang said.

The piece, originally a ballet, features many rhythms and accidentals. Brissie said that performers can almost “feel the dancing” in the music when they play it, while Cheng said that players get “an endorphin rush.”

“The notes come together in such harmonically pleasant ways that it’s almost like at certain points the individual notes turn into chocolate gems that you are picking off as you play them,” Cheng said.

The orchestra, made up of students, professors, community members and some hired musicians, is evidence of the universal nature of classical music.

Cheng said that the diverse group on stage proves that everyone can enjoy listening to the pieces.

“Some students are uncomfortable going to a classical music concert because it is different from what they are used to,” Cheng said. “It might help them to realize that even the grandest masterpieces have relatively simple missions of conveying what it’s like to be alive.”

The orchestra will perform in Spaulding Auditorium on Saturday, May 24 at 8 p.m.


The article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended: May 22, 2014

The initial version of the article misspelled the name of the photographer, Kang-Chun Cheng. It has been revised to correct the error.