The Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra performed a concert complete with one of Jean Sibelius’ most well known symphonies 8 p.m. Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium.
Sally Williams Minnich said she knew she’d enjoy the concert even before the orchestra began to play.
“It’s quite a strong group,” Williams Minnich (graduate-music education) said. “Maestro Edelstein does a really great job of preparing the ensemble and getting great music out of them.”
She also added that her friends in the orchestra were looking to performing Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82.” They told her it had a lot of “beautiful, epic moments.”
Before the orchestra performed “Overature to Les Francs-Juges, Op. 3” by Hector Berlioz, conductor Gerardo Edelstein explained that Berlioz had originally intended the piece to be part of an opera.
“He worked for years and years and years to premiere an opera, but he was never satisfied with it,” Edelstein said.
Berlioz ended up destroying most of the opera, but he preserved the overture.
The overture included a lot of moments in which the lower instruments, such as the upright bass, cello and bassoon were prominent. Often, these instruments offered a dark tone to the piece.
However, moods within the piece varied often, shifting into a lighter, almost playful feel later on as the tempo picked up.
Next, the orchestra performed “Violin Concerto” by Aram Khachaturian. The piece featured violin professor Max Zorin as the soloist.
“Zorin’s solo playing tends to be very exciting,” Williams Minnich said before the performance.
The first movement of the three-part concerto was marked with cadenzas, moments in which Zorin was allowed to play long, intricate solo passages with little or no accompaniment from the orchestra.
The second movement often sounded haunting with support from the bassoon section.
The third and final movement eventually took on a light, almost playful feel, which was almost ironic given the sometimes-dark character of the rest of the concerto.
Finally, the orchestra performed Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5.
Edelstein told the audience that when Sibelius composed the piece, he was already well known in Finland.
One day, Edelstein said, Sibelius was walking through the woods and saw a group of swans flying through the air. He was so moved by the image that he wrote a part into the last movement called the “swan theme.”
Edelstein said that the symphony ended up becoming one of Sibelius’ most popular.