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December 11, 2023

Students show off prowess at Peabody Symphony

By NATALIE BERKMAN | October 1, 2009

On Saturday, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra performed under the baton of Hajime Teri Murai in Peabody's Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall.

Its program was simple: a perky overture, filled with impressive technical runs and lyrical melodies, a piano concerto, featuring Ronaldo Rolim, the winner of the Harrison L. Winter Piano Competition and a symphony by Jean Sibelius.

The hall was not completely packed, but the orchestra drew a sizable audience. Rolim's performance merited a lengthy standing ovation and the concert as a whole was celebrated with enthusiastic whistling and a round of applause.

Even so, as Jeffrey Sharkey - the Peabody director - wrote in the program, "Music needs an audience, and our performers are excited to share their music with you." More Hopkins students and community members should be aware of the fantastic music that emanates from the concert halls at Peabody, the branch of Hopkins at which future great musicians are taught.

Peabody was founded in 1857 and opened in 1866 - 10 years before Hopkins opened its doors - and has been producing world-class musicians ever since. With a focus on classical music and jazz, Peabody's students are required to perform regularly, even if they are not pursuing a performance degree.

The Symphony Orchestra, one of two full symphonic orchestras in which students perform at Peabody, is primarily composed of graduate and advanced undergraduate students. They perform six or seven times each season and draw from a repertoire consisting of both immense classical works and more contemporary selections.

The other orchestra, the Concert Orchestra, is mostly composed of undergraduate musicians and performs six times each season. In fact, on Friday, Oct. 2, the Concert Orchestra will be performing another Samuel Barber piece, as well as some Mozart and Dvorak. Additionally, there is also a jazz orchestra, a wind ensemble, choral ensembles and an opera studio.

The students who perform on the Peabody stage may very well be performing in the great concert halls around the world, so it's definitely be a good idea to see them now - especially with a student discount.

The "Overture to The School for Scandal," written by Samuel Barber (1910-1981), began with dissonance but turned out to be an adorable piece. It highlighted every part of the orchestra multiple times, from the mechanical efforts of the upper strings to the woodwind solos and fanfares.

There were legato sections, during which the melody was heard above everything else; there were playful sections, in which the instruments play off one another, matching style; and there were complex sections, filled with trills, pizzicato, brassy tones and an air of controlled chaos.

Overall, the piece had a little of everything and certainly gave the audience an idea of how impressive the rest of the concert would be. After the first piece, one could easily see that the orchestra was filled with over a hundred virtuosos and highly trained musicians.

Ronaldo Rolim, the second performer, was born in Brazil in 1986 and has been studying music since the age of four. He has won over 15 competitions in both Brazil and the United States and is currently pursuing his Bachelor's Degree in Piano Performance at Peabody. As part of the prize for winning the Harrison L. Winter Piano Competition, Rolim performed Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor. His technique was very impressive and his style well-refined.

While the concerto was not as interesting as the first piece, Rolim gave a fantastic performance - technically perfect and still very lyrical when it needed to be. The orchestra successfully matched his style without blocking him out; indeed, the sounds that were achieved in this piece were some of the most beautiful notes in the whole concert.

The final piece of the night was Symphony No. 2 in D major by Jean Sibelius, a classical composer and the de facto national composer of Finland. He wrote Finlandia, which is one of the most important national songs of Finland.

His second symphony, meant to express Finland's struggle for independence, is marked by notes - played beneath the main melodies - that attempt to surface. The three note theme introduced at the beginning develops and changes throughout the piece, becoming the beautiful final movement that was performed with such elegance that it was surprising the rain outside didn't stop.

The symphony, like the other pieces on the program, highlighted different sections of the orchestra: there was a violin solo in the first movement and multiple oboe solos throughout; the basses began the second movement with a pizzicato melody; and the trumpets in the fourth movement resonated powerfully within the hall.

Even as particular sections of the ensemble were singled out, the whole orchestra blended admirably. While the tempo of the fourth movement was slightly too fast and the three note theme seemed a bit rushed, the overall symphony was performed at the level of a professional orchestra.

For a group of students that began rehearsals in September, they put on a wonderful concert.

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