Variation was the name of the game at the Knox Galesburg Symphony’s opening concert last Saturday.
The Oct. 14 concert filled the Orpheum Theatre with the sounds of compositions by Johannes Brahms, Alan Hovhaness and KGS conductor and Professor of Music Bruce Polay.
The first piece in the concert was Polay’s piece “Sparkle.” Although “Sparkle” was commissioned in 2007 by Blick’s Art Materials, this was the world premiere of a new, tightened version of the piece. Polay said the playing of the piece is a paradigm of “articulation” in music.
The piece is a bright, glittering exploration of color and each note is a distinct point of light. Polay used the “thematic development” of the letters D-B-A-E, which stands for Dick Blick Art Materials (the “M” becomes the solfege syllable “mi,” which corresponds to the note E in the key of the piece) to build the piece.
Sophomore Jonathan Vardon was excited to see “Sparkle” because he is taking Polay’s songwriting class and was interested to hear a piece his professor had produced. He enjoyed the song’s storyline.
“The end was weird, but overall, it was nice,” Vardon said.
The second piece was Brahms’ “Concert for Violin and Violoncello in A Minor, Opus 102.” Before the piece started, soloists Solenn Séguillon (violin) and Anne Suda (violoncello) walked on the stage wearing matching fuchsia dresses. The bright gowns set the soloists apart from the black and white of the orchestra even before their skillful playing distinguished them.
Polay allowed his conduction of the piece to be inspired by his work conducting Alan Hovhaness’ symphony they played later in the show. Hovhaness’ Eastern influence inspired introspection so Polay said his take on Brahms sounds “more translucent than you’re used to.”
Polay said the piece was difficult for any orchestra, but he was happy with the symphony’s work on the piece.
“A lot of big orchestras would fall apart in some things, but the [KGS’s] first rehearsal was inspiring,” Polay said.
The performers’ hard work paid off in a beautifully executed piece. The soloists both played with skill and fervor. Their encore performance was one of the most talked about pieces of the night.
Alan Hovhaness’ “Symphony No. 22, Opus 236 City of Life” was an otherworldly and sometimes haunting piece that was supposed to transport listeners to another place, wherever that place may be.
Junior Ashley Wolfgang enjoyed the concert so much she fell asleep.
“It was so soothing and relaxing, it put me to sleep,” she said. “That’s how I like to enjoy classical music sometimes.”