Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra prepares to play Tchaikovsky’s most ‘open-hearted’ work during spring concert

The concert will feature Kimberly Tan ’22 as the violin soloist with orchestra director Filippo Ciabatti conducting.

by Armita Mirkarimi | 5/12/22 2:00am

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Courtesy of the Hopkins Center for the Arts

On May 14, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra will perform its annual spring concert on Saturday, May 14 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Directed by Filippo Ciabatti, this show will feature Jean Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto” and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique.”

This is DSO director Filippo Ciabatti’s sixth year with the orchestra, where he has conducted DSO concerts and chosen the repertoire student musicians play. 

“The DSO is the type of orchestra made up of some of the best musicians on campus,” Ciabatti said. “There is a good mix of community and professional players that are implemented in the group

The group of musicians who play in the DSO is tasked with playing challenging pieces within the symphonic repertoire and canon, Ciabatti said. However, this concert, in particular, features the work of  Kimberly Tan ’22, who will be soloing “Sibelius Violin Concerto.”

“She has been the concertmaster of the orchestra for a good period of our time and will now be playing this very hard piece written by the north European composer, Jean Sibelius,” Ciabatti said. “It’s a huge accomplishment: soloing a piece and having the opportunity to play with the orchestra.”

Tan said she has been involved with the DSO since her freshman fall. Her roles in the orchestra have ranged from being principal first violin to concertmaster and now, a soloist. 

“I’ve basically been involved all four years, even during COVID when we didn’t really have a ton of rehearsals, to when we rehearsed outdoors in a tent earlier this year,” Tan said. “I’ve been the concertmaster for multiple terms [and this time,] I’m still playing with the orchestra, but since I’m playing a solo piece, it’s been a little different focusing on that and being the soloist."

For Tan, the experience of being a soloist has allowed her to explore her personal relationship to the music that she is playing.

“I think I’m just getting really deep into the music myself,” Tan said. “It’s a different experience playing in a big group and there is something special when you are part of the entire orchestra that you don’t necessarily get or experience when you’re by yourself.” 

Concertmaster Hanlin Wang ’21, who is now pursuing a master’s at Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, has continued to stick with the DSO after initially joining as an undergraduate freshman.

Like Ciabatti, Wang said he looks forward to Tan’s solo as it is tradition for the DSO to feature senior soloists with the orchestra in the background. Wang characterized Tan’s pieces as an “exhilarating ride” from beginning to end.  

In addition to Tan’s solo performance, the orchestra will also play Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique,” which both Tan and Wang said they are especially excited about. 

“We haven’t played any pieces by Tchaikovsky for years and it has been really rewarding to finally play some of his work,” Tan said. “It’s been a long time coming.” 

Wang echoed Tan’s enthusiasm for the concert, recalling the challenges and disruption that COVID-19 brought to the rehearsal process. 

“A lot of rehearsals had limited personnel because parts of the orchestra had COVID, but we still persisted and kept up with our rehearsal schedule,” Wang said. “I think we’re very proud of how far we’ve come, putting together these really challenging and demanding pieces, [and we’re] really excited to show it to the audience.” 

Ciabatti added that “Pathétique,” Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, will bring an emotional range to the concert. 

“The piece is called ‘Pathétique’ for its very huge emotional and sentimental varieties,” Ciabatti said. “There is this peculiar aspect of finishing the symphony with a slow, painful moment instead of what …  traditionally [happens], which usually a symphony ends with a movement that is very upbeat and bombastic.” 

Conducting Tchaikovsky has been on Ciabatti’s dream repertoire list, he said, as it is considered to be one of the seminal works of symphonic music. Ciabatti emphasized that the pieces connect very well to the “chaos of the world now.”

“The piece is charged with the same discomfort of the chaos of the world now,” Ciabatti said. “I think the symphony is really able to portray this continuous conflict that happens within us human beings … Tchaikovsky struggled so much with his sexuality as well with his background … This symphony really portrays extremes of great pain and agitation and also profound joy.” 

In addition to Tan’s solo and the extensive Tchaikovsky piece, Ciabatti will host a pre-show talk at the top of the Hop to give an informal introduction to the program. 

Aside from the music the DSO plays and their dedication to their performances, Tan said that the orchestra has evolved into a strong community with different interests. 

“The DSO is really special because most of the members of the DSO are not [music] majors and people are doing all sorts of things in their Dartmouth lives,” Tan said. “The fact that we get to come together and play at a really high level of music and have the resources and the people for that is really rewarding for all of us.”

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