Orchestra reveals the not-so “Lowly Trombone”
The Colby Symphony Orchestra performed Saturday night in the chapel.
On Saturday Oct. 22, the Colby Symphony Orchestra performed its first concert of the school year entitled, “Hail the Lowly Trombone,” a performance featuring special faculty guest trombonist Sebastian Jerosch to a full, enthusiastic audience in Lorimer Chapel. Using the trombone concerto as the main feature of the night, the concert showcased the dynamic musicality of the often “lowly trombone.” Essentially, the program accentuated many parallels within the piece selection, which manifested in similar musical tropes and times.
The performance began with the German opera melody “Overture to Der Freischutz” by Carl Maria von Weber. As the Colby Symphony conductor and Music Department Chair, Associate Professor Jonathan Hallstrom prefaced the piece. Hallstrom told the audience how Weber was “sort of a one-hit guy,” but he explained that “Overture to Der Freischutz” was a consequential work as a representation of opera in German history, as well as a telling piece of the eventual transition from the Classical to Romantic Periods.
Hallstrom then described how “Overture to Der Freischutz” was largely a folktale narrative piece, or in his words, “a convoluted story about silver bullets and enchanted fairies.” The Colby Symphony Orchestra began with a crescendo into a soft, expressionist opening where the musicians paused in perfectly uniform breaths. The French horn section was soloed over softer string sounds in a central, melodious theme of four-part harmony. This compassionate adagio section then contrasted the accelerated, darker, accented portion that followed, filled with strong brass blares and quick violin runs. A triumphant, crisp clarinet solo encompassed the melody with happy string plucks, and finally, the piece dramatically ended over and over again as Hallstrom conducted an almost-ending a few times before finally leading the orchestra to the grand finale with a cathartically long note.
The next piece, “Ballade for Trombone and Orchestra” by Frank Martin, welcomed special guest Jerosch and his shiny trombone to the floor. The sections and seating arrangements were slightly altered to accommodate the slightly smaller orchestra ensemble needed for the arrangement. Jerosch impressed the audience, beginning with a clear, eerie solo that showcased his elegant tone through the orchestra’s intense, exciting cacophonous sound. In this fiery neo-classical work, sections contributed to the larger sound through theatrical contrasts in tempo and dynamics along with great tonal distinctions. Jerosch rang his bell and swayed his body during his jumping solos over the powerful clamor of flute trills and timpani rolls that Hallstrom directed beside him.
After intermission, Hallstrom discussed the “interesting parallel” of their first piece, Weber’s “Overture to Der Freischutz,” to their final piece of the night. Hallstrom said that Weber began his piece around 1817, which was around the time that Franz Schubert composed “Symphony No. 4 in C-Minor,” also known as the “Tragic Symphony.” Hallstrom pointed out how Weber’s piece begins with a single note that crescendos while Schubert’s piece begins with a single note that decrescendos. The audience chuckled as Hallstrom also explained how Schubert might have called Symphony No. 4 the “Tragic Symphony” to make it sound more profound so that it would sell better.
Although Schubert’s Romantic “Tragic Symphony” interestingly had no trombones, the piece’s four movements had the most variation and depth. In the first section, “Adagio Molto-Allegro vivace,” the sounds of falling flute sounds and tempo-moving string bounces, led to stately classical sounds of the repeated theme through sections, which led to an intense, minor climax. When the fourth movement “Allegro” finally came around in the roughly 30-minute piece, the audience was transfixed by the orchestra’s skill at playing such an impressive symphony. Hallstrom earlier called it “ a great piece,” and the Colby Symphony Orchestra executed its greatness with gusto. While the concert was most importantly a program conveying discrepancies and similarities between divergent composers, the audience of Lorimer Chapel certainly hailed the lowly trombone in Jerosch’s sturdy performance.