University of Texas University Orchestra's Fall 2015 Concert

The maiden voyage of the new school year was a pleasure cruise thanks to a program of audience-friendly music and the connection that the students maintain with the crowd

Comprised mostly of nonmajors, UT's University Orchestra gathers under the twin batons of maestros David S. Platt and James O. Welsch to perform classical music, something the students do in addition to their regular curricular activities. They do it for fun, with dedication – and they do it with skill, passion, and a connection to their audience that more elite groups eschew in favor of maintaining a professional distance. That connection – and the rough and tumble of a first performance of a new school year – made the UTUO's maiden voyage of '15-'16 a pleasure cruise.

The audience-friendly program included selections by Rossini, Puccini, Bizet, and Beethoven, all of which offered earfuls of drama. It might be an easy rejoinder that, when three of the composers are best known for their operas, as a matter of course the music will be dramatic. Yet only one selection was from an opera.

That was Rossini's overture to The Barber of Seville – a familiar first salvo that highlighted individual instruments from brass to woodwinds to harp, and even pitted the violins against the cellos in a thrumming give and take. Seeing music performed with such exuberance is as much fun as listening to it – a recurring theme for the evening.

Puccini's Preludio Sinfonico followed, a work the composer wrote while at conservatory and not much older than the orchestra's student performers. It offered romantic, moody swells and hints of the composer's impending masterpieces. The third selection was Bizet's L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1, with its familiar "March of the Kings" prelude and undulating "Carillon" finale – the horns playing the part of pealing bells.

The final selection was Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F Major. The "Pastoral" symphony gives us Beethoven as tour guide, leading the listener into the countryside, where his music evokes carriage rides through rolling hills, water flowing in a brook, bird calls, a light rain that darkens to a sudden storm, and local folk enjoying a simpler, robust life. The lolling first movement infected the musicians, whose bodies swayed to the music of the imaginary carriage ride.

At times, it appeared that the musicians were listening to themselves – call it a third ear – but that was part of their charm. Moments of self-awareness amidst so much concentration. Part of the beauty of the live performance meant spying moments such as the cellist struggling with a stiffly bound score that would not sit still; the violist with the fixed, delightful smile; furrowed brows on the strings; nervous glances into the house. Both conductors seemed to be engaging the musicians simultaneously as individual performers and as a unit, keeping their charges focused through a combination of encouraging body language and gestures.

Finally, kudos to the array of soloists featured throughout the evening: the alto saxophone in the Bizet; horn, flute, and bassoon in the Beethoven; and a special nod to the savior of the evening (as conferred by maestro Welsch), the second oboe, who performed star turns during both the Rossini and the Beethoven. The next concert by the University Orchestra is Nov. 24. Lovers of classical music lovingly played by dedicated young musicians, take note.

University of Texas University Orchestra

Bates Recital Hall
Oct. 13
More Butler School of Music
<i>Sehr Flash: Fiction Becomes Music</i>
Sehr Flash: Fiction Becomes Music
Austin composer Russell Podgorsek teams with lit journal NANO Fiction to create short short stories with original scores

Robert Faires, Oct. 16, 2015

Butler School of Music
Butler School of Music
Two concerts – one by Harvey Pittel, one for the late Rose Taylor – pay tribute to 'living in a song'

Robert Faires, Jan. 24, 2014

More Arts Reviews
The Hidden Room Theatre's <i>Henry IV</i>
The Hidden Room Theatre's Henry IV
Beth Burns' latest foray into Shakespeare will school you on how to present plays penned by the Bard

T. Lynn Mikeska, Sept. 22, 2017

Recspec Gallery’s “The Eyes Have It”
Recspec Gallery’s “The Eyes Have It”
The gallery’s inaugural show fills the room with eyes, both good and evil, as well as visual riddles and calisthenics

Melany Jean, Sept. 22, 2017

More by Robi Polgar
Panoramic Voices' Bach: <i>Mass in B Minor</i>
Panoramic Voices’ Bach: Mass in B Minor
Director Brent Baldwin and his chorus made this work of pure uplift – rousing to sing, delightful to hear – a joy to experience

Aug. 18, 2017

Austin Chamber Music Festival: St. Lawrence String Quartet
Austin Chamber Music Festival: St. Lawrence String Quartet
This concert was a lesson in active listening from an active, assured, exceptional ensemble

July 21, 2017


Butler School of Music, University Orchestra, David S. Platt, James O. Welsch

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)