SLSO Hosts Energetic Student Night


The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra hosted an electric Student Night Saturday, March 30, which featured returning guest violinist Karen Gomyo and Czech conductor Jakub Hruša of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. For a mere $10, students could listen to Bela Bartok’s “The Miraculous Mandarin,” Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D major” and Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major” and enjoy free Snarf’s sandwiches, cupcakes and Urban Chestnut beers after the concert.

The Symphony opened the evening with Bartok’s “The Miraculous Mandarin,” an aggressive piece that tells the story of a girl who is forced by three thieves to dance in front of a window to attract victims. After the first two unsuspecting men are found to be penniless and thrown out, the girl attracts a wealthy Chinese man, the “Mandarin,” who gets the closest to having his way with the girl. But unlike the other two victims, he is murdered by the thieves. “The Miraculous Mandarin” evokes a dismal urban slum, punctuated by its discordant and anxious themes that never truly give way to a hopeful or restful melody. Originally performed as a one act pantomimed ballet, the SLSO instead used a libretto displayed on a long screen above the stage to describe the action that would otherwise be performed by ballerinas.

“The Miraculous Mandarin” was followed by the evening’s premiere event—Gomyo’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s only concerto for the violin. The 37-year-old Japanese virtuoso was outstanding in her interpretation as she at times appeared to dance with her violin from side to side. Yet, each movement of her arm and fingers seemed mechanical and incredibly precise, done with the confidence that only comes from playing a piece of music countless times—to the point that the artist forms a connection with the music, which flowed out from her commanding performance. Playing her “Aurora, ex Foulis,” a 1703 Stradivarius violin, Gomyo maintained a beautiful and full tone despite the difficult high notes the concerto required, which she made sound almost songbird-like.

The spirited and kinesthetic direction of Jakub Hruša added a visually entertaining element to the SLSO’s three works. His passion for the pieces that were performed was clearly visible in his intense face and expressive conducting. Hruša frequently moved back and forth on the conductor’s stand, occasionally jumping just a little to add some extra emphasis to particular movements. Like members of the SLSO, Hruša could not help but smile at times during Gomyo’s emotional cadenzas.

Students interviewed by the University News responded very well to the event. Lindsay of Albany University said, “It was incredible.” “It was amazing!” said Caroline of SLU. “The very first piece blew my mind,” said Karen of Rochester University. When asked what their favorite part of the evening was, the majority of students named the violin concerto as their favorite, though some also favored “The Miraculous Mandarin,” citing its uniqueness compared to the other two works. While some students attended simply to try the SLSO for the first time, a couple mentioned that they were particularly attracted by the promise of refreshments, a surefire way to garner initial curiosity in students. Most of the students interviewed had never been to an SLSO or other symphony experience, but, after seeing the great bang for their buck they received Saturday night, all responded that they would like to go to more SLSO and other symphonies’ events in the future.

Although the next SLSO Student Night will not be until the Fall 2019 season begins, students can continue enjoying $10 tickets for most events, though without the after-concert noshes.

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