World Premire of Dragon Mother, by Gilad Cohen, ft. Martha Elliot
Also performing Horn Concerto No. 1 (Strauss), Violin Concerto No. 2 (Bartók), El Salón México (Copland)
Dec. 7-8 at the Richardson Auditorium
On a cold December night, there is nothing better to do than lean back in a cozy seat at the Richardson Auditorium, close your eyes, and perk up your ears to hear the sound of the Princeton University Orchestra resonating in the air.
On Friday and Saturday evening, the orchestra, conducted by Michael Pratt, performed four pieces, one of which was the world premiere of graduate student Gilad Cohen’s Dragon Mother. The composition was brought alive by a powerful soprano, Martha Elliot. If you only have a sweet tooth for music from the Classical and Romantic eras, then this rather modern piece may not suit you, but if you also have a taste for a more dissonant pitch, Cohen’s creation may be just what you’ve been waiting for. Through the course of the piece, the audience was taken on an emotional journey of a woman from childhood to motherhood, bound to the jarring intersection of domination and helplessness. The tale reaches a point where the daughter chooses independence over her mother security, and sharp gloom that embodied the atmosphere of the auditorium was well portrayed by the group of musicians. I am excited for the piece and its eminent success this January when it will be performed through the Orchestra’s tour of Europe with Elliot.
Another piece performed by the Princeton Orchestra was Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1. After a few minutes of last-minute preparation backstage and an extra round of tuning, the much-anticipated Max Jacobson came to front stage with his horn. As the piece has been performed traditionally, Jacobson’s horn joined the orchestra’s sound with grand reverberation after the first chord, giving the concerto a nimble yet grand ambiance. Those who like traditional-style concertos would have found this segment of the performance to their liking.
Next in line came a three-part piece written by Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2. Young violinist Caitlin Wood stepped up onto an elevated stage as the rest of the Orchestra and Conductor Pratt took their positions. In surged an ominous sound of conversation between Wood and the Orchestra. After a few more dissonant chords that ran chills down my spine from their vibratos, the sound was quickly pocketed as Wood dived into her sequence of solos. Although some synchronization and unbalanced volume among the instrument sections depreciated the middle ‘tranquillo’ section, Wood’s intricate and swift finger-work shone through from beginning to end in each flawless ascend and descend of notes. The fluctuating structure of this concerto was a clever way to keep the audience fully engaged, as it was a large shift in style from what Strauss brought to the stage.
Conductor Pratt seemed very pleased with the performance of the soloists, and each was given a congratulatory bouquet of flowers in celebration of their success, earned by patience and many hours of practice. The Princeton Orchestra finished with Copland’s festive El Salón México as a first taste for what will be a part of their performance routine in the early months of 2013. As the melody leaped and soared, the Orchestra radiated loud and bright chords once more, with a conclusive “bang!“ to send the audience off into the holiday season. In addition to the performance of this piece and “Dragon Mother,” the audience can look forward to hearing a Shostakovich symphony in the orchestra’s next concert.