The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra’s (CCO) performance at Ithaca College’s Ford Hall on Friday, September 21st, was aptly titled “A Heroic Beginning.” The orchestra began its 42nd concert season with a delightful evening featuring the overture to Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor and Ludwig van Beethoven’s classic Symphony No. 3 with guest pianist Prof. Miri Yampolsky, music. A staple in the city of Ithaca, the CCO has been a premier institution of classical music performance since 1976.
Opening the evening’s concert was the energetic overture of the renowned opera “Orfeo ed Euridice,” which first premiered in 1762 in Vienna. The piece is based on a Greek myth in which Orpheus makes a deal with the god of the underworld to resurrect his dead wife, but only if he can walk in front of her out of hell without looking back. Remarkably clean and enthusiastic, the performers came alive under the baton of conductor Cornelia Laemmli Orth and delivered an unforgettable opener.
Following the overture was Schumann’s Piano Concerto with soloist Miri Yampolsky. The concerto was written with a central motif modeled around the name of Schumann’s wife, Clara, an accomplished pianist and composer herself. Yampolsky, a faculty member at Cornell, performed the piece with incredible sensitivity and expressiveness. The first movement’s fiery piano riff dissolved into a touching, goosebump-inducing melody that positively captivated the audience. The orchestra provided a very balanced accompaniment to Yampolsky, whose command of the piano showed in every phrase. The clarinet and oboe solos were also notably well done. The climactic end of the first movement gave way to a demure second movement, featuring soaring melodic lines by the cellos and dramatic arpeggiation on the piano. The main theme was again referenced by the winds in the transition to the third movement, which dramatically brought the concerto to a close. Simultaneously solemn, furious and delicate, Yampolsky’s performance was a nuanced and enjoyable take on the classical staple. A standing ovation immediately followed the final chord with a chorus of whoops and cheers.
The stunning finale of the evening was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica,” consisting of four diverse movements. The familiar tune of first movement was a welcome opener to this iconic symphony, and Orth began it at a brisk and lively tempo. Undaunted, the orchestra delivered a technically-sound rendition despite a challenging first violin line. Expertly weaving between major and minor, they gracefully interpreted the turbulence written by Beethoven to rivet the audience to their seats. A lively round of sixteenth notes and a flourish brought the movement to a breathtaking halt. The funeral march of the ensuing second movement expertly conveyed a profound feeling of despair and hopelessness — a fantastic contrast to the drama of the opening movement. Led by a sorrowful outpouring of emotion from the violins, the winds overtook the melody and drove the orchestra into a stormy developmental passage. A crescendo into a furious rage continued into a quiet and understated return to the original key, capping off the movement with precision and style. After a quick and dynamically broad third movement, the final movement began with a dizzying explosion of sound that dropped off into a quiet pizzicato section, giving way to the expression of the dominant melody. With fast passages of notes and unexpected twists and turns, the orchestra managed to perform the finale with such exuberance that their energy was physically manifested through their movements onstage. Personifying the spirit of the “Heroic Beginning,” the symphony was performed with dramatic flair and electricity throughout. A second standing ovation greeted the musicians at the conclusion of the concert, a testament to their fantastic performance.
Upcoming concerts in the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season include “Music Without Borders” as part of their Chamber Music Series and “Magic, Movies and Music” as part of their Orchestra Series. More information is available at ccoithaca.org.
Maggie Gaus is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]