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On Saturday, October 3rd, the Fine Arts Department at Mount Saint Mary’s University hosted a classical music concert in the Horning Theater of the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center. The musical theme for the evening centered on classical compositions that emerged from France during the height of the Romantic era. It was a night full of enviable displays of talent, humor, and a diverse variety of captivating melodies.

As this month’s Journal article explained, the works of Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns and Henry Vieuxtemps would be showcased to anyone wishing to hear their music. I was happily surprised by the great turnout! Nearly every seat had an occupant, and the applause the performers received was almost equitable to their excellent performance. I say almost because their playing was worthy of Carnegie Hall, and interestingly enough, one of the performers did indeed play at Carnegie Hall, at the humble age of 16.

The first composition of the evening was Vieuxtemps’ Ballade et Polonaise, Op. 38 (1858). Not only is this work particularly beautiful, but it is also a detailed, intricately woven piece that is exceedingly difficult to play well. You can listen to an example of the composition below. It begins slowly and deliberately, and around 3:45 the speed of the playing noticeably picks up. I promise it’s worth the listen;

Here’s a fun tidbit that might interest you. Henry Vieuxtemps is one of the most famous and highly praised violinists of the past 200 years. The violin which he used primarily is referred to as the Vieuxtemps Guarneri, and has been used by Yehudi MenuhinPinchas Zukerman, and Itzhak Perlman, each of whom are incredible violinists. Recently, however, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri was auctioned and was purchased by an anonymous bidder for an undisclosed amount of money. The bidder granted lifetime use of the violin to Anne Akiko Meyers. It is widely speculated to be the most expensive violin ever sold; The Economist published an article in 2013 which claimed that the Vieuxtemps Guarneri is worth 16 million dollars due to its pristine condition, the person who crafted it, as well as its storied history.

Following this composition, the focus shifted onto the piano, where the Estampes (1903) of Claude Debussy was played. You can listen to it below,

The Estampes are divided into three sections:

(1) Pagodes [Pagoda]. Pagodas, as you may know, are tiered towers that are classical components of Asian architecture. In this section, pentatonic scales are heavily used while following traditional Asian musical melodies. This section, in the video above, lasts from 0:00 – 5:47.

(2) La soirée dans Grenade [The evening in Grenade]. This section uses the Arabic scale, and was intended to make the listener feel as if he or she was in Grenada, Spain. In the video above, this can be heard between 5:55 – 10:57.

(3) Jardins sous la pluie [Gardens in the rain]. This section of the composition was created by Debussy to musically describe a heavy rainstorm and its effects on his garden. The heavier notes and the speed of play reflect the various elements of a storm: the strong winds, violent rain, the sonorous thunder. It can be heard from 11:01 – 14:59.

This composition was played wonderfully and was truly something to behold that night.

Following a short break, the performers James Tung (violin) and John Wickelgren (piano) played Saint-Saëns’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 75 (1885). You can find a rendition of this below,

James Tung and John Wickelgren played this composition spectacularly. These three compositions alone are demanding to even the most experienced classical musicians. Nevertheless, Tung and Wickelgren played all three in the span of an hour and a half, and did an absolutely phenomenal job.

Following the surprise composition played at the end, a reception followed where people could discuss the music that was just performed, as well as many other
interesting threads of conversation.

And this is just the small crowd that were the first to exit the theater!

The concert was a great success, and I’d like to thank everyone from the local Emmitsburg area who came out to attend. I hope more events like these can be orchestrated in the future, and if they do come about, I promise you all will be the first to hear about them! I’ve tagged the concert program below as well, which gives the names of all the compositions as well as the biographies of the players.

A French Romance (October 3, 2015)