The Yale Symphony Orchestra performed on Saturday its third show of the year, titled “The Year 1905,” following the previous week’s wildly successful Halloween Show.
The program included a world premiere of “Unraveling,” composed by Max Vinetz ’18, who opened for the orchestra. Cameron Daly ’18 also performed Glazunov’s Violin Concerto with the YSO playing in the background, and the orchestra played Shostakovich’s hour-long Symphony No. 11.
“I’d say it’s pretty rare that we perform a piece by an undergraduate,” said Jacob Sweet ’18, co-president of YSO and a staff writer for the News. “But it’s only because we have a lot of respect for Max and we know the quality of his work is always really high.”
YSO Music Director and Conductor Toshiyuki Shimada explained the entire program is derived from the Shostakovich. His selection of the piece was inspired by the orchestra’s Russian tour this summer. While he was walking along St. Petersburg, Shimada came across the Winter Palace, the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1905. According to Shimada, what was supposed to be a peaceful protest turned into a massacre when a soldier started firing into the crowd.
The first piece, “Unraveling,” is composed by an undergraduate, which Vinetz said has not happened in years. A few years ago, Shimada said, he came across Vinetz’s piece during a reading of student works and thought he was very talented. This year, he commissioned a piece for the YSO, which Vinetz started writing in late August and finished in September.
Shimada characterized the piece as a very complex study about sound that “juxtaposes everything together.”
Vinetz said he was inspired by an architectural structure in Spain’s City of Arts and Sciences when he was traveling throughout Europe this summer doing music research for his senior project.
Faced with an object of immense scope, Vinetz found himself wondering, “What if for this piece I take some musical idea and just completely blow it up and explore how large it can be?”
Vinetz said he was also frustrated with the traditional way people are taught to approach and create music, in which ideas develop in a linear fashion. Instead of a structure that builds on the previous movement, Vinetz was interested in creating a system of rules in which, for example, the percussion corresponds with the color spectrum.
Of the piece itself, Vinetz explained that he used notations so the orchestra does not play in sync, but rather each member performs individual solo parts, giving an impression of disorder. He said he asked the orchestra to be as loud and aggressive as possible, so that the different parts compete against each other.
“Imagine, just cut a hundred threads and then just start spinning apart, spinning apart, so you hear all this detail, none of which intersects, all of which spins out of control,” Vinetz said.
To that effect, the string instruments gave the sense of threads falling apart under pressure, and the percussion and brass added a sense of urgency that culminated in a dramatic climax.
If the first piece felt like an auditory onslaught due to its resemblance to controlled chaos, the next piece felt like gentle massage due to the silky softness of the violin. Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, full of technical tricks, was composed in 1904, in line with the show’s theme. It was played by Daly, who received honorable mention of the William Waite Concerto Competition.
“What’s special about the Glazunov is it’s crazy that an undergraduate who’s majoring in Global Affairs can have such a high-caliber violin performance,” said Sweet, adding that the first half of the concert can be summed up as a show of undergraduate talent.
The central piece, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, which Sweet characterized as a very intense and exciting piece that starts off foreboding, has been called a “film score without a film.”
“The Halloween Show was pure entertainment in a way,” Shimada said. “This concert would be more intense on an emotional level. The music really starts speaking to you through [the orchestra’s] playing, through this composition.”
Shimada was not the only one who was aware of the difference between the Halloween Show and this performance. Sweet said he would encourage anyone with season tickets to pretend such non-Halloween performances are the Oct. 31 show and come four hours earlier.
“It’s obviously totally different, but there’s the same amount of effort and passion that we put into performing it,” Sweet said. “And there might not be a silent movie, but if you close your eyes you can pretend there’s a silent movie and just enjoy the wonderful music.”
As Sweet suggested, there were fewer people in the audience than at the Halloween Show. Nevertheless, when the show ended after two hours, the YSO received a standing ovation.
The YSO will perform selections from Handel’s “Messiah” with the Yale Glee Club on Dec. 10.
Eui Young Kim | firstname.lastname@example.org
Clarification, Nov. 14: The story has been updated to reflect that Cameron Daly ’18 was the recipient of honorable mention in the William Waite Concerto Competition.