On Saturday, February 22 the Illinois Symphony Orchestra performed their first program of their 2014 season at Sangamon Auditorium conducted by Alastair Willis. The program was called “Shimmering Shakespeare” because the second act was made up of movements from the ballet, Romeo and Juliet. The first half of the performance was a percussion concerto with a featured guest artist, Joseph Gramley. The performance used all of the traditional orchestra instruments but there were extra emphasis on the percussion ones. The Illinois Symphony Orchestra used a variety of classical music and collaborations with outside groups and organizations to create an entertaining and unique program.
The first piece was the prelude from Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy. This piece was in contrast with the others in the program because it is very soft and doesn’t have a defined form or beat. The flute was the featured instrument which created ...view middle of the document...
There was a platform upstage that was used to showcase these drums and other types of percussion instruments. The concerto worked like most concertos do with the solo group, in this case the percussion, alternating with the full orchestra. This felt odd but interesting because the percussion isn’t usually the highlighted orchestra family. The piece had three movements with the first and third movements with fast tempos and the second with a slow tempo. This piece used terraced dynamics, rhythm, and interaction with the orchestra to convey the power of the percussion.
The second act of the night was wholly made up of different movements from Romeo and Juliet by Sergey Prokofiev. The Illinois Symphony Orchestra collaborated with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for this piece which was a very special treat. Two actors from the Shakespeare Festival came and preformed scenes from the play in between the movements that the orchestra played. This was helpful because it broke up the music and explained what was going on with the music and how it relates to the play. The Prokofiev score is interesting because it is a mix of the older classical ballet music and the more modern music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is simpler than some of the older music but still maintains the same structure and feel of the classical and romantic ballets. Romeo and Juliet was the beginning of the modern ballet. The contrasting movements tell the story with intensity and beauty. The most well-known movement of the composition, “Montagues and Capulets” is an example of the intensity that has an underlying sound of threat and danger. “The Young Juliet” is the opposite of this with its beauty and softness to emphasize Juliet’s youth and innocence. The combination of the music and the acting created drama in the theater that was emotional and beautiful.
One of the reasons why classical music has stood the test of time is because it is universal. It appeals to all types of people and “Shimmering Shakespeare” was an example of this. It featured music from different periods and cultures but everyone can enjoy it. I was entertained by the variety and impressed the skill of all musicians and actors involved in this production.