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The Scarlet & Black

Orchestra blends Beethoven, Bagpipes

On Sunday, Oct. 4, the Grinnell College Orchestra began a promising season with its first concert, entitled Beethoven and Bagpipes. Preparation for the event began one month before, almost as soon as the school year began.

“One month into classes, and with such tricky music—I’m really glad the way things went,” Eric McIntyre, the conductor, said.

Two soloists were brought in for the performance. Professor of Music Eugene Gaub, a world-renowned pianist, played solos during the Beethoven piece, and local Rob Clower was featured in a concert-ending solo on the bagpipes.

“The bagpipe was actually very easy to work with, because the parts were simple. But for the Beethoven, he’s so good that he’s a little bit above us, almost intellectually, while we’re playing,” Will von Geldern, ’11, concertmaster, said.

The concert opened with “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major,” by Ludwig van Beethoven, featuring Eugene Gaub on the piano. In typical concerto format, the piece is in three movements: Allegro, Andante con Moto and Rondo Vivace.

The Allegro opened with the piano soloist introducing the theme, a rest and then the orchestra joining in. In places the group lacked energy, but the pace improved as the piece progressed. The Andante began with a dialogue between the soloist, playing softly and the orchestra, coming in with loud staccato chords. The transition into the third movement, using a well-recognized Beethoven melody, was seamless.

The second piece was the “Fugue from Symphony 4,” by Charles Ives, a famous experimental composer. The symphony itself calls for two conductors doing two separate things at once, which had to be modified for this production. The fugue was characterized by strong melodies drawn from church music and beautifully played by Sophie Haas ’12 on the organ.

Peter Maxwell Davies wrote the third piece, “An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise,” composed in 1985, about a wedding he attended while in Scotland. The piece’s main body consisted of three wedding dances broken up by periods of dissonance in which various instruments drunkenly interrupted the theme and each other. Rob Clower closed the piece with a traditional morning greeting on the bagpipes, representing the drunken walk back from the wedding as the sun broke dawn.

The orchestra adeptly carried off the unique show, beginning a season that will hopefully continue to showcase both their skill and ingenuity.

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