The Yale Symphony Orchestra opens its 51st Season Saturday night in Woolsey Hall.
Conducted by Maestro Toshiyuki Shimada, the YSO will deliver a two-hour performance featuring solo violinist Emily Switzer ’17. While last year’s 50th Season featured a largely contemporary repertoire, this year’s opening concert is an all-Russian program with works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Dmitri Shostakovich.
YSO President Cindy Xue ’17 said the orchestra hopes to widen its audience this year, heavily promoting season tickets around campus and creating a live stream for students to watch in their dorms.
“We are trying to make classical music cool again,” Xue said. “Most of the YSO are not music majors. We were all brought together by this shared passion for classical music.”
Even with only three and a half weeks to rehearse, YSO members said they feel prepared to deliver an inspiring performance.
As the violin soloist, Emily Switzer ’17 will perform Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Switzer has won the 2016 William Waite Concerto Competition — a competition conducted by YSO for undergraduate musicians in their first three years at Yale — as well as the 2015 Friends of Music Recital Competition and the 2016 Sharp Prize for Music. She has also performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Denver Philharmonic, the Littleton Symphony and the Lakewood Symphony.
Shimada said he is excited for the season’s opening, lauding Switzer’s “magnificence” as a violinist as well as the orchestra’s collective technical and musical abilities. Though he has conducted many other orchestras, he said YSO is one of the most musical orchestras he has ever conducted.
Shimada added that YSO’s performance quality is particularly impressive given their other commitments as undergraduates.
Switzer selected her solo piece, the Shostakovich concerto, but Shimada selected the other works in the program. While he often welcomes student input, Shimada said this program is very much “his own.”
Though the program is classical, YSO Publicity Chair Noah Stevens-Stein ’18 noted that Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, which the orchestra will perform Saturday, is very accessible even for audience members who do not typically listen to classical music thanks to its “incredible” emotional depth. Aedan Lombardo ’20, a bass player, said he loves romantic music and is a fan of the concert’s program.
Xue said while her favorite piece in the upcoming concert is the Shostakovich concerto, she is excited for Yale students to hear Rachmaninoff’s symphony.
“The Rachmaninoff describes the passion and the angst that many of us feel on a daily basis,” Xue said.
Out of desire to share their love of orchestral music with the Yale community, Xue said members of the orchestra conducted a photo campaign on Cross Campus last week to promote the sale of season passes, asking various students what they would do for a coveted Halloween show ticket — which is included in the season pass.
The YSO has big collaboration plans for the remainder of the season. From a joint performance with the Glee Club to a staged version of West Side Story in a collaboration with the Shen Curriculum for Musical Theater, this season will be busy for YSO.
Xue said YSO sought to represent composers from diverse backgrounds this season. She noted that YSO will play music by composers such as Florence Price, one of the first African-American women to be commissioned by a symphony orchestra.
YSO comprises 90 musicians.