On Sunday afternoon, students were wearing shorts and walking around campus. At two o’clock, I left the library and headed to Gasson Hall for the 2019 Boston College Symphony orchestra concert. This was the last concert at Boston College for seniors who play in the orchestra, so I decided to come forty-five minutes early just to sit in the second row and enjoy the concert. As I entered Gasson Hall, I heard music coming from Room 100 and I found that the Orchestra was still rehearsing before the concert. I decided to stand in front of the door for a half-hour and listen to the comments that the conductor, John Finney, was making.
At 2:45 p.m., the doors were opened for the audience to enter the room and the orchestra, including the conductor, left the room to rest before the concert. I was able to see some friends who are in the orchestra and tell them how excited I was to listen to the music. At 3:00 p.m., the orchestra entered the room and then a violinist who was sitting in the front row introduced the conductor. The conductor explained that only two musical pieces would be played. The conductor raised his hands and looked at the cellist to start playing Concerto in E minor, Op.85 by Edward Elgar. This concerto was forty minutes long and was first performed in London in October of 1919, “reflecting the composer’s sorrowful feelings for his native land at the end of World War I” (Schwarm). This concerto had four movements. For the first movement, the solo cellist began playing and the full orchestra joined him after a few seconds. I heard three triad chords that were played by the cellist in the beginning. It felt as if the cello were talking and the rest of the orchestra were playing the background music. It was a great musical piece. Michael Oh was the cellist who played the solo. He was the co-winner of the 2018-2019 Boston College Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. He was sitting in front of the orchestra and it seemed like the orchestra and the conductor were following him, not the opposite. For the majority of the first movement, he was playing without the orchestra. However, for the second movement, the full orchestra joined him for most of the time. The structure of the first movement was A, B, C, A’ and the beat was slower than the one in the second movement. I believe the time signature was 4/4 and the piece was in G-major.
Before the concert, I chose to listen to this concerto on Youtube and I noticed some differences. First, in the Youtube video, I could not hear the sound of the clarinet (Topic). I was not sure if there was a clarinet section in the orchestra. Second, I could not distinguish between the sound of the cello and the violin in the Youtube video. However, at the concert, the sound of violin and cello were much clearer and more easily distinguishable. Furthermore, at the concert, it was very interesting to see the cellist playing some very high notes by the end of the first two movements, which made the cello sound more like a violin.
For the second and third movements, I listened to a different Youtube video that had a cello played with a piano instead of an orchestra, and as much as I love the sound of the piano, I think this musical piece is better played with an orchestra (Meadowmount School of Music). To me, the Youtube video made it sound as if there was a conversation between the piano and the cello. On the other hand, the concert made it sound as if the cello was talking and the orchestra was playing the background music. Furthermore, at the concert, the second and third movements sounded a lot more powerful. I think it is the combination of different instruments compared to the Youtube video that had only a cello and a piano playing. In addition, it was interesting to see how focused the solo cellist was when he was playing. He was closing his eyes when he was playing and moving his body along the cello. He was wiping his face as much as he could, which made me realize how much effort and focus it takes to play a solo part. Also, I think the brass and percussion instruments had a critical role in these two movements. They made the music sound stronger and much more powerful when the full orchestra was playing with the cellist.
By the end of this piece, there was an intermission. Oh left the concert and an award was given to one of the violinists for his outstanding performance. The conductor called all of the seniors’ names in the orchestra and the audience applauded for them. It was interesting to know that a few musicians in the orchestra are alumni.
The second musical piece was “Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who is a Russian composer. This piece was supposed to have four movements but the orchestra played only three of them. The conductor said that they did not have time to rehearse the fourth movement. The cello section in the orchestra played first along with a few violinists. The first movement was in pianississimo and the music was relaxing. Then, the French hornists, along with the rest of the violinists, joined them. I had never heard a French horn played before, and it was beautiful. Finally, the rest of the orchestra, including the clarinets and flutes, joined. I noticed some crescendos and decrescendos in this piece, especially in the first movement. By the end of the first movement, the music was getting louder to forte until the percussion joined and the full orchestra played the notes as fortississimo. At the end of this movement, the music was alternating between pianississimo and fortissimo, which made it interesting. Also, this movement made me think of antecedents and consequents since some parts were repeated throughout the first movement.
When I listened to this piece on Youtube, I could not notice any differences (Symphony Of A Thousand). The piece overall was nice. Since some parts of it were played in pianissimo, it did make me want to close my eyes and let the music relax me. I really enjoyed sitting in the second row more than sitting in the back. I think the structure of the second movement was A, B, C, D, E, A’, B’, D’, and A’. The tempo of the second movement was slower than the tempo of the third movement. I believe the time signature was 4/4 for the three movements and the piece was in G-major. By the end of this piece, the conductor turned to the violinist that was sitting in the front row to his left and shook his hand. Then, he pointed at the musicians in the orchestra as we were applauding. I am happy that I picked this concert. The next time I go to a concert, I will try to sit in the front row.
Meadowmount School of Music. “Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 – Esther Yu.”
YouTube, YouTube, 8 Sept. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDTTgAYu4ss.
Schwarm, Betsy. “Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc., 26 Apr. 2015,
Symphony Of A Thousand. “Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.”
YouTube, YouTube, 2 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mrCIYsMHDE.
Topic, Various Artists -. “Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85: I. Adagio – Moderato.” YouTube,
YouTube, 7 Nov. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGIwqFpxBXY.