YSO prepares to introduce love of music through story-telling

On Oct. 1, the Yale Symphony Orchestra will hold their first concert of the 2022-2023 school year.

Jane Park

11:27 pm, Sep 29, 2022

Contributing Reporter


Courtesy of the Yale Symphony Orchestra

The opening show of the Yale Symphony Orchestra calendar, “The Passage of Time” concert is a performance of musical storytelling that explores time and memory through three unique pieces.

On Saturday, Oct. 1st at 7:30 pm in Woolsey Hall, YSO will perform Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” Paul Reale’s “Concerto for Cello, Strings and Percussion” and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

“I think that all of these pieces are linked, at least in our minds, by a sense of anticipation and excitement,” cellist Spencer Adler ’24 told the News. “I’ve been in the orchestra for more than three years at this point, and there hasn’t been both this level of musicianship and excitement to perform since my very first concert in fall of 2019.”

According to YSO Programming Chair Noah Lee ’25, who leads the committee responsible for choosing this year’s concerts themes and repertoires, the centerpiece of this concert is the orchestra-wide piece, “Scheherazade.”

“Scheherazade” is a large four-movement work that is 45 to 50 minutes long,” Lee said. “It is one of the pinnacles of romantic orchestral repertoire. It’s highlighted by some violin solos that are supposed to represent Scheherazade herself, and these solos are interspersed throughout the piece.”

Based on the collection of tales, “One Thousand and One Nights,” “Scheherazade” shares its name with the collection’s main female protagonist. In the tales, Scheherazade attempts to survive and please the King by telling him stories for each of the 1,001 nights.

Lee explained that this story acts as a musical guide for the musicians’ playing.

“There is a lot of emotion tied to each one of the stories that Scheherazade tells and that emotion, that is almost spurred by the desperation of staying alive in the story, for Scheherazade is very important,” Lee said. “The way that the members of the audience play should be very much from the heart.”

Adler elaborated on the importance of each section taking on a voice or character, alternating which instrument holds the narrative of the story throughout the piece.

“Rimsky-Korsakov really is a master orchestrator,” Adler said. “In this piece, you will be able to hear the solos and melodies being passed along … among each of the different instruments and it really showcases what I think is an exceptionally talented group of musicians, which is really exciting, and I think tells the story of Scheherazade in her bravery and her cunning in a really powerful way.”

In addition to “Scheherazade,” the “Passage of Time” concert includes Paul Reale’s “Concerto for Cello, Strings, and Percussion,” a commissioned piece for the YSO to be recorded by classical music label, NAXOS Records. The YSO will record this concerto in memoriam of Paul Reale, a friend of Yale School of Music Dean Blocker, who recently passed away.

The final piece, Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” also represents a musical dedication to Claude Debussy, a French composer who died in 1918. For Lee, this piece is a strong favorite among the three.

“It’s from Stravinsky’s neoclassical period, which is often neglected compared to his three famous ballets in terms of orchestral music. There is a simplicity but elegance to it, while maintaining his own voice of tonality,” said Lee.

The concert is the first of this year, and for many in the YSO, their first concert ever at Yale. Cellist Kira Wang ’26 expressed her excitement for her first performance and described her experience adjusting to the new musical environment.

“One of the pieces that we’re playing, we’ve had two rehearsals on, which seems very strange to me because in other orchestras, we would have seven to eight rehearsals on each piece, at least,” Wang said.[The YSO] is a lot more fast paced.”

In addition to newcomers’ adjustment to the orchestra, one challenge that the YSO faces is the induction of some violinists-turned-violists. According to Victoria Lu ’24, who is also playing in the YSO for the first time, the viola section has many musicians who have recently learned to play.

“I think the viola section is pretty unique because there are four people who have just started learning viola, including me, because there was a deficit in viola players,” Lu said.

“The viola section leaders have a unique challenge to both make their section cohesive, but also teach the new players how to integrate into the musical style.”

This concert represents the first performance of newly-joined YSO members along with veteran YSO musicians, according to Adler, so these challenges are to be expected.

When asked about what she wants the audience to get out of their first concert, Wang emphasized her desire to make listeners fall in love with classical music and appreciate its story-telling qualities.

“One thing that can make classical music more exciting to people, or people who haven’t listened to classical music as much, is how much story is behind just the music that we’re listening to,” Wang said.

Woolsey Hall is located at 500 College St.

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