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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Delivers

<ul Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1959, holds the honor of being the only full-time professional chamber orchestra in the United States. An emblem of high-caliber classical music, the ensemble received a Grammy award for a performance of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in 1980 and has been under the leadership of such musical luminaries as Pinchas Zukerman, Hugh Wolff, and Bobby McFerrin.

In recent years, it has suffered from drastic funding cuts as well as from a six-month lockout in 2013 that led to the cancellation of over 80 performances, according to the Star Tribune. Nevertheless, the ensemble gave a stellar performance at Carleton College on January 19th that prompted a standing ovation.

The program began with J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, which featured celebrated SPCO flautist, Julia Bogorad-Kogan. This baroque work, composed circa 1739, presented an overture followed by a series of dance forms popular in 18th century Europe. The famous and virtuosic Badinerie, the final movement of the piece, showcased Bogorad-Kogan’s musicianship and clarity of sound particularly well.

Bach was followed by Stravinsky, a 20th century Russian composer best known for such strident compositions as The Rite of Spring, a work depicting a human ritual sacrifice. The orchestra illuminated Igor Stravinsky’s more charming side with a bewitching performance of his ballet suite from Pulcinella. A memorable movement was the mysterious Seranata, which incorporated the subtle strains of an accompanying string quartet into a softly pulsing musical texture characterized by pizzicato accents.

The second half of the concert brought the audience back to Bach with Anton Webern’s arrangement of his Ricercare 6. The piece’s main musical theme, suggested to Bach by King Frederick II of Prussia, was divided by Webern such that its fragments are passed among various brass instruments. The addition of the string section adds fugal elements that the orchestra executed elegantly.

The concert concluded with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major, also known as his “Italian” symphony, which he composed in the early 1830’s. This proved to be something of an audience favorite; concert-goers hummed snatches of the symphony’s energetic closing movement while sampling refreshments in the lobby.

It was an afternoon well spent. I sincerely hope that Carleton continues to fund SPCO concerts on campus; the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is a top-tier ensemble, and we are lucky to have its talents so close at hand.

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