Led by the energetic and elegant Cheung Chau, UVU Symphony’s Concerto Night was a study in sound, passion and overwhelming emotion. The orchestra stunned with concertos by Mozart, Dvorák, Rachmaninoff and more, both soloists and ensemble alike enchanting the audience with their pure talent. At the direction of their brilliant leader, Chau, Concerto Night was an evening spent experiencing culture and class through the power of live music.
As the spectators filed in, The Noorda’s brightly lit interior gleamed off of the instruments onstage, each waiting to be picked up and played by their respective owners. Socially distanced and masked, there was a sizeable turnout for the symphony’s production and the crowd grew significantly as the musicians began to warm up. Cheu was met with a wave of applause when he finally took his place on the conductor’s stand, ready to kick off the evening. The first concerto was performed by the symphony and solo-oboist Ivy Gines, Oboe concerto in c minor composed by Domenico Cimarosa. A senior in oboe performance at UVU, Gines astounded with her clear notes and quick transitions, leading the audience right into a frenzy of melodies ranging from Cimarosa’s Larghetto to Allegro giusto. It was immediately apparent when Gines took the stage that she has played music most of her life. Her flawless ability to navigate a difficult and, at almost all times, fast-paced concerto without seemingly breaking a sweat taught those listening about the enduring nature of classical music through the simple act of hearing it. From happy trilling tones to melancholic depth, Gines was complemented perfectly by the ensemble and each movement was a testament to just how gifted all of the musicians present were.
The second soloist of the night was Kade Bennett. As a vocal performance student at UVU, Bennett wowed listeners with his operatic mastery of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Papagena and Gaetano Donizetti’s, Cruda funesta smania. The way he flowed through each word as if genuinely experiencing the weight of it, even in German and Italian, was exceptional. Bennett guided the crowd along storylines with his phenomenal play acting skills and dynamic voice, adding a sense of rarity to the event with his performance. The orchestra followed Bennett’s lead incredibly well, sweeping in and out of grand surges of sound that had audience members looking on in amazement. In January, Bennett appeared in UVU’s Lucia di Lammermoor as Enrico and is now preparing to travel to Sicily where he will study voice, as well as participate in Puccini’s La Boheme and Gianni Schicchi.
Following Bennett, the stage crew moved the massive grand piano to the center of the stage for soloist Mat Stokes. Throughout his performance of Piano concerto no. 2, op. 18 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the audience was stone-still and in awe. At one point in the number, both pianist and symphony came to a great crashing crescendo, followed by a long beat of complete silence. None in the auditorium dared breathe at that moment with the silence hanging thick and lovely through the air. Stokes brought many members of the audience to tears with his incredible ability to play as though the piano were an extension of his own body, similarly engaging young and old with the intricacies of his music. Stokes has studied piano from the age of six and has participated in many recitals, festivals and symphonies throughout his career. He is currently in his third year at UVU, striving towards his bachelor’s degree in behavioral and social sciences.
The final concerto of the night was Cello Concerto in b minor, op. 104 by Antonín Leopold Dvorák, performed by the orchestra and cellist Nathan Heyrend. A freshman studying English education, Heyrend brought the evening to a close with a talent people twice his age long for. He played his piece so passionately and with total exertion, he would throw his arms to the side in exhaustion at pauses between sections. Notes seemed to fly out of his hands and into the air one-by-one, creating a steady and strong atmosphere in which Heyrend seemed to remind the audience of how the cello can be one of the brightest in a symphony. Previously having performed with various youth orchestras, Utah Valley Symphony and others, Heyrend was able to end the Concerto Night on an unbelievable high.
Each talented musician in the UVU Symphony has more than earned their spot and gave the audience Tuesday night one of the most stunning shows to emerge from the school’s fine arts program. Under the remarkable direction of Cheung Chau, this symphony orchestra is a must-see and, of course, a must-hear. For information regarding schedules and events, please visit the link to learn more: https://www.uvu.edu/music/ensembles/symphonyorchestra.html