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Elise Bruns

February 22, 2016


Music in Vienna
Professor Kregor
Writing Assignment 2
For my second writing assignment, I chose to attend and critique a concert performed by
the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This concert took place on February 20, 2016 and was filled
with only pieces from American composers.
When you first arrive at the beautiful Music Hall, you are immediately struck by the
grandeur of the building. The outside is covered in brown brick, but when you step inside almost
immediately you see beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The main lobby goes
up almost three stories, and the second floor is laid out as a balcony. While on the second floor,
you are level with the largest chandelier, and you may look to the floor below to observe the
people milling about on the black and white checkered tile. The inside of the performance hall is
filled with people eagerly waiting to be swept away by beautiful music. The seats are made of a
type of red velvet, and they perfectly compliment the white and gold of the walls. Your eyes are
drawn towards the stage where there are about 50-70 seats laid out, all waiting to be filled with
astounding musicians.
The first piece performed was Charles Ivess The Unanswered Question. To start the
concert, only four flutists and the conductor walked on stage. This was immediately unusual
because one would expect the whole orchestra to come out. The lights dim, and a spotlight is put
on the flutists. The first thing you heart is soft strings playing many chords at a very slow tempo.
This immediately confuses the listener, and you are left wondering where the sound is coming
from. As the piece develops, you hear mainly three groups of sounds: the four flutists, the strings
playing slow chords, and a solo trumpet. But again, the only instruments you can see are the
flutes, the trumpet and strings are behind the stage, hidden from the audience. The piece moves
forward, and it becomes obvious that while the three groups are playing the same piece, they are
not meant to play in unison. The piece ends, and you are left in fact with an unanswered
question.
The second piece performed was Barbers Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14. It
consisted of three movements, and the first movement was my personal favorite. It was beautiful
and lyrical, and the themes were generally shorter and played at an allegro tempo. You could see
and hear the transition of the melody between the orchestra and the solo violin. Sometimes, the
solo violinist would watch the first violins playing, and you could see how much she was swept
away and loved both playing and listening to the music. The second movement developed one of

the themes from the first movement, and again you were lost in the beautiful, lyrical melody as it
was played at an andante tempo. The third movement was very impressive, because both the solo
violinist and the orchestra played triplets or sixteenth notes almost the movement, and at a presto
tempo no less. You were left breathless at the end of the piece, in amazement of the skill required
to play such a piece, especially the last movement.
After the intermission was the highlight of the concert. Coplands Appalachian Spring
and Bernsteins suite from On the Waterfront were both played. On hearing Coplands piece,
you could immediately tell it was an American piece, written by an American composer, for
Americans. It immediately left you thinking about the rolling plains and the wild west. This was
created by the use of the off-beats and syncopation. When Bernsteins piece came, it was also
easy to tell this came from a movie score, because the theme changed every couple minutes. The
themes were generally very fast and action-packed. It was especially exciting at the end of the
piece when a gong was used to increase suspension and drama.
By the end of this concert, I have grown an appreciation for American composers. I was
able to experience music in a new way as in the Unanswered Question, get more exposure to
solo violinists from Barbers violin concerto, hear one of the great works from and depicting
America, and feel the drama of a movie through only the music. I give this concert high remarks,
and I would love to go see it again.