The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and select pianists from the Doctor of Musical Arts program in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance performed a two-part series of classical orchestra pieces at Hill Auditorium over the weekend on Friday and Saturday nights.
Upon entering the auditorium, I immediately noticed that people of all ages were present. I saw some who looked to be seasoned symphony-goers, while others, apparently new parents, brought along their smiling toddlers, all of whom seemed to enjoy the performance — even those too young to be able to verbally communicate it.
At the Friday night performance, I spoke with audience member Stevie King, who said that she had come to the performance to support her coworker, who is a flutist in the orchestra. She also brought along her husband, who is a pianist himself, in the hopes that he would enjoy the work of Claudio Espejo and Hsiu-Jung Hou. I also spoke with Palmer, a senior at the University of Michigan and a member of the University’s Men’s Glee Club, who said he wanted to attend more events in Ann Arbor before he graduates. “It’s free and a good study break,” said Palmer during intermission. He has been on the stage at Hill with the Glee Club many times, but as he states, “It is nice to just be an audience member.” I spoke with another gentleman who owns two houses: one in Ann Arbor and another in New Hampshire. After seeing an ad in the Record, he and his wife decided to attend the performance, as they “like to see what humans are capable of.” It was apparent that the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra and DMA pianists attracted audience members from both the University and the greater Ann Arbor area.
Both performances utilized the talents of Robert Broadman as guest conductor. Broadman was Artistic Director of Live from Orchestra Hall, the free worldwide webcasts of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, until he was appointed the position of Interim Director of Orchestral Studies at Eastern Michigan University in 2018. Broadman is also the winner of several prestigious musical awards, including the first place award in 2018 and 2015 for The American Prize and Maestro Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming. Watching Broadman conduct with intense passion was artistic. His face would get beet-red and his movements fast and violent as the crescendos of his orchestra bid him to. He seemed to physically muscle through the symphony, as though he needed to exhaust himself to pull the music out of the written page and out onto the orchestra. I am certain that this man was hypertensive for a significant portion of the performance.
“Finale: Alla breve” is a piece from Piano Concerto no. 3 in D Minor, op. 30 composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was played during the Friday night performance with Hsiu-Jung Hou at the piano. Hou presented in a deep maroon dress that looked like a point of color amid the blackness of the orchestra from which the orchestra fanned out from Hou and her piano, adding a bit of colorful drama to the already-dramatic piece. “Finale” was played with such vigor and passion that it was as though the listener has been sent down a winding road filled with both triumph and melancholy.
The Saturday night performance brought with it some of the best classical piano I have ever heard, courtesy of Eun Young Lee, Mi-Eun Kim, and Ji-Hyang Gwak. The combined performances on Friday and Saturday night further showcased the talent housed in Ann Arbor and the University, and its capability to draw in audiences from in and around the area.