On Friday afternoon, the Boston College music department presented a stunning concert by the BC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Finney. This concert also featured multiple solos and solo performances by Annie Kim, MCAS ’18, a violinist and the concertmaster of the orchestra for the past three years.
Gasson 100 was filled with a sonorous euphony as every instrumentalist strove to tune their instruments—and to ready themselves—in preparation for the concert. A sizeable crowd gathered, filling the rows of chairs that were spread out on one side of the large room. Finney stood in front of the orchestra, from his place as conductor, and welcomed the audience. He also mentioned that, while the University has a lot great areas on campus, one of the things that it lacks is a large concert hall. Acoustically, a large space designed for concerts does a great deal in enhancing the overall listening and playing experience. In light of this, Finney chose to leave the large double doors of Gasson 100 wide open. This way, the sound could echo throughout the building, swirling up around the statue of St. Michael the Archangel to the higher floors. Perhaps this way, Finney continued, people walking through the building would recognize the sounds of a concert and come to listen.
The orchestra began by playing Johannes Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80. As Finney explained, the songs that make up this overture would have been famous and well-known to students among German universities in the 19th century, just as they would be appreciated by students today.
As the string-heavy opening music began, the audience could appreciate the building tension and impending heights that reached exultant notes from the violins and horns—watching the conduction of Finney assisted in the expectation of mood shifts in the music. If you worked hard, you might be able to pick out the individual sections of the orchestra during the various parts of the overture in which the entire orchestra was playing—this would allow you to see what each section was contributing individually, and you could listen to the orchestra build this piece into its entirety. In each piece throughout the concert, there were parts that employed the entirety of the orchestra, and the wall of beautiful sound that washed over the audience was truly impressive.
The first overture almost appeared to tell a story. The audience listened through the different movements, as the orchestra alternated between heavy, imposing beats and light, bounding areas of comparative calm.
The next piece was quite an undertaking. It was Antonín Dvořák’s Concerto in A minor for Violin, Op. 53. The piece is 35 minutes long—which is an impressive amount of time to do anything— and features multiple solos by a violinist—in this concert, Kim. As the audience settled in for the second and final piece of the concert, Kim, Finney, and the orchestra appeared to gather themselves.
The orchestra leaped right into the piece will full music and then leaped right back out almost as quickly. In doing so, it allowed for Kim’s violin music to sound out as a solo voice—hitting the high notes in the same way that a human voice would. As her solo trailed off, the orchestra leaped in and back out again. This pattern would repeat, as if one voice (the violin) was speaking beautifully against the powerful voices of the masses (the entire orchestra).
People walking through the building would stop to gather, standing on the edge of the threshold of the door into the room, as if their entrance would cause the beautiful music to stop. It appeared that Finney had been correct in his leaving the doors open. These open doors also provided an extra echo of sound that added a greater life to the notes, allowing them more space to fill and to breathe.
Often, people forget that the symphony orchestra can be a viewing experience as well as a listening one. Watching the way that the instrumentalists responded to Finney’s conduction and the way in which they moved so expertly and precisely to craft such wonderful sound was beautiful. Sitting especially close, at an angle, one could also see the notes on Finney’s lips as he looked from one section the next, signalling them with his hands.
This concert served to send off the Symphony Orchestra’s year with a beautiful crescendo, giving audiences something to look forward to for next year.
Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff