by Simon de Carvalho '14
Ah, Parents Weekend: A lovely couple of days filled with arts performances. And what better way for parents to get a feel for the atmosphere and history of Harvard than by watching one of the school's oldest and most prestigious performing groups, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, opening its 203rd season Oct. 15 in Sanders Theatre?
Sanders was abuzz with a capacity audience eager for a program featuring three works. The first was the sprightly overture to Guiseppe Verdi’s Vespri Siciliani, which was exciting and energizing. The closer was Antonín Dvořák’s incomparable, epic and truly magnificent New World Symphony, which I had the pleasure to see performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra last year. The piece was just as spectacular as I had remembered it, and the acoustics in Sanders let the complex, layered arrangements shine.
The most intriguing piece of the night for me, however, was the second on the program: Ritual Images by James Yannatos, music director of the HRO and member of the music faculty from 1964 to 2009. As we were informed by current music director Federico Cortese, Yannatos still attends HRO performances, always sitting somewhere in the center orchestra section. (Be on the lookout next time!)
The Yannatos piece was thoroughly modern, beginning with one of the percussionists flapping around a piece of paper and the pianist plucking the strings inside her piano. Throughout, there were maracas, tambourines, a snare drum, wooden blocks. At one point, the orchestra members let out a collective "ooooooh!"
At the end, Maestro Cortese recognized Maestro Yannatos, who was received with a rousing round of applause.
An auspicious start to year 203, I’d say. Not that there was ever any doubt.
The next HRO concert is Friday, Dec. 3.