Wilfrid Laurier University Symphony Orchestra had their Holiday concert on Nov. 27, and it was a night for soloists, Afendi Yusuf, clarinet, Sarah Gates, Saxophone and Sarah Whynot, piano were all on stage strutting their musical chops for the audience. These three musicians were the winners of Laurier’s 2010 Faculty of Music concerto competition. The concerto competition is a yearly contest held by the faculty to let its best and brightest compete to gain a solo in the next year’s musical program.
Yusuf led the way playing a movement from Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet (1948). The piece was played largely in the clarinet’s upper register, and the articulation made the piece come across very crisp and clean, especially the faster runs.
The cadenza in the middle of the piece was executed, at times, with professional flare, but other, more challenging areas in the cadenza were played without conviction, leading to a weakening of the section.
Next, Gates played a jazzy concertino by French composer Jeanine Rueff. Gates executed the piece beautifully, playing the runs expertly as well as performing the slower, more flowing parts with ease. Her main drawback was the visual aspect of the piece. She flapped her arms while playing, lending a distracting edge and detracting from the enjoyment of the music.
Whynot played the allegro movement of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. A virtuoso performance, she played as well as any professional I had seen perform the same piece.
The main issue with the performance was tuning. Throughout the entire performance, there were major tuning problems in the violin section. They played with a great amount of cohesion, unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for their sound. I found myself sitting grinding my teeth on held notes, wondering if the section could not hear the same problems that the audience could. The tuning issues were prevalent even through the solo performances, taking away from the great performances that were taking place at the front of the stage.
If this were a professional symphony, I would call the lack of tuning inexcusable. Even as a student symphony, they are in a music program, and should be able to do something as basic as tune.
Aside from the tuning issues, the performances were quite nice. For the $10 you spend to watch, it is worth supporting Laurier music and going to the performances, but don’t’ expect everything to be perfect. For a $10 symphony concert, you definitely get exactly what you pay for.
The WLU symphony’s next performances will be the Laurier production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on March 4, 5 and 6, 2011.