With a repertoire that included Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, the Yale Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 50th season.
Held Saturday evening in Woolsey Hall, the event opened the YSO’s 2015–16 lineup of concerts, which includes a spring performance in Carnegie Hall featuring John Mauceri ’67 GRD ’72 — the YSO’s first music director — as a guest conductor. Current YSO Musical Director Toshiyuki Shimada said each piece in Saturday’s program was chosen with the orchestra’s special anniversary in mind, including a new composition by Brian Samuel Robinson, the YSO’s orchestra manager, commissioned specifically for the occasion. Shimada added that the concert marks the opening of a season that will seek to connect the YSO’s history to its present.
“There is quite an internal theme to this anniversary season, which is to connect the past to the present and to look toward the future,” Shimada said.
The first piece in Saturday’s concert was the world premiere of Robinson’s “Anniversary Fanfare,” which the orchestra dedicated to Shimada in honor of his 10-year anniversary as YSO music director. Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” followed, conducted by Yale Director of University Bands Thomas Duffy as part of a collaboration between YSO and the band. Additional pieces included Igor Stravinsky’s whimsical “Pulcinella Suite” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4
Since its founding 50 years ago, the orchestra has grown to include roughly 90 students, including 27 new taps this fall, Shimada said.
Rehearsals for the 50th anniversary concert began in early September, promptly after new members were tapped, Jacob Sweet ’18, a clarinetist for the YSO, noted. Percussionist Adrian Lin ’18 added that although there were only four weeks between tap night and the orchestra’s first concert, the new members adjusted quickly to the group.
“[The new members] already are capable of playing any of the repertoire,” Shimada said. “[They] know how to collaborate … my job was easy: to put things together.”
Both orchestra and audience members interviewed highlighted Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony as one of their favorite pieces of the evening. Albert Cao ’18, a YSO violinist, said that he thought the concert repertoire was structured to “build up” to Tchaikovsky’s symphony, which constituted the concert’s full second half. Lin noted that the symphony is one of his favorite pieces of music to play.
Barbara and John Doyle, the parents of YSO first violinist Virginia Doyle ’17, said that they thought the evening was a fitting opener to the orchestra’s 50th-anniversary season. Tuan Dong ’19 added that he thought the concert was likely one of the best he had attended.
Orchestra members said they were excited to share their love of music with audience members, particularly as the YSO celebrates its 50th season.
“I think the way music brings people together is a lot deeper than anything else,” Lin said. “Music speaks to the human soul, and when you make music together you make that connection.”