A Matter of Ritual: Conservatory Performances Impress with Unusual Material

Conductor Robert Olson gave a hearty performance on Thursday evening, as did his assembled orchestra.

The first and most difficult piece, “Sensemaya,” had its own unique energy and discernable emphasis. Robert Olson described the piece as focusing on ancient ritual and myth. It is written by a Mexican composer, Silvestre Revueltas, and featured a unique combination of instrumental arrangements.

The piece skillfully juggled creating a feeling of both order and chaos. To the average listener, it might remind one of the famed Indiana Jones movie soundtracks, with a somewhat similar pulsating aura to it. Of the three pieces, it had the strongest reaction from the audience.

The second piece, “Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs)” by widely-known composer Richard Strauss, featured a stirring performance by Laura Weir, soprano vocalist. The reaction of the audience to the performance seemed a bit less enthusiastic than to the previous piece, however.

“Vier Letzte Lieder” had a similarly intriguing feeling about it. “All four songs are about death,” Mr. Olson mentioned just before the start of the piece. The piece itself did not seem that melancholy, except in the fourth and last movement, which was a bit slower and had a less intense rhythm to it.

The last piece, by Johannes Brahms, had the most effervescence in sheer musical terms.

The music in the piece was a bit more repetitious in comparison to the two previous pieces. Such a traditional pattern should be expected since Brahms was not writing about the Mayan themes featured in Sensemaya or the willful contemplation of death by Strauss.

Orchestra member Fraser Farmer had a scintillating experience with the performance. He enthusiastically enjoyed the enormous energy the piece contained. “The sense of being on the edge of disaster made our performance of that piece very exciting to me, though I’m sure it may have been very stressful for others,” Fraser said.

Senior Ryan Foltz had similar feelings about the performance. “Strauss’ vocal writing and his scoring behind it is gorgeous, and I thought it was performed very well,” Foltz stated. Fotlz’s comments echoed the overall sentiment of the audience in terms of how the performance was received, although it seemed that the first piece garnered the most applause from the audience.



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