SBSO Stirs and Challenges

Reviewer: Connor Rousseau

Venue: The Temple Theatre

The Temple Theatre was enveloped in the sound of a musical marvel on March 4th. Conductor Fouad Fakhouri did not disappoint with his “Romantic Reflections” concert. The immortal music of three renowned composers, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Bruckner was featured for an eager audience. Their music came to life and reached the audience’s ears as it has for centuries. 

Before the performance, Fakhouri held a pre-concert interview during which he explained what compelled him to arrange the concert with those three composers and the selected pieces of music. He explained that the theme of romance was not necessarily romance in the way one may visualize it. We may imagine kissing couples, Cupid shooting his arrows at unsuspecting lovers, and little pink and red hearts. But for these composers, romanticism was about capturing the glorious essence of the past. 

The concert began with a bold, energetic five-minute piece by Tchaikovsky, “Eugene Onegin: Polonaise,” which includes intense, upbeat strings and bombastic brass instruments. This piece has a dramatic sense of urgency which kept me on the edge of my seat, and its conclusion tied a pretty bow on top of a short piece, repeating themes I could not get enough of no matter how many times they returned.  

The chronology of the concert took us next to Haydn, the pioneer of instrumental coalescence. As the father of the symphony, he united instruments that sounded wonderful on their own and blended them together to create a revolutionary sound, much like the mixing of different ingredients to conjure up a delicious dish. Alone, such ingredients present a mouth-watering taste, but combine several ingredients together with a passion and a purpose and you have something uniquely new. That is the brilliance of Haydn, a pioneer who ventured off to create and discover new flavors in the world of music. His Symphony No. 88 took the audience to intermission for a chance to contemplate the musical baggage packed into such a performance. I would need to sit through that symphony several times before being able to capture every unique detail Haydn hid within it, and to truly appreciate the attention to detail. 

Finally, we come Anton Bruckner, whose music ended the concert. Before the performance, Fakhouri spoke like a true philosopher when discussing the length of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, which is just over an hour in length. Fakhouri acknowledged the short attention spans people have in modern day, and how we like things quick and we like them simple. Upon hearing Bruckner’s symphony is an hour in length, many of us immediately turn our heads and ask to hear something else. Many of us simply don’t possess the patience Bruckner’s symphony requires. Our phones are a key component of that impatient mindset, providing us with instant gratification, and that kind of a tool can be dangerous if we wish to unlock the substance and the story that lies within Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. If we truly wish to enjoy the marvels before us, the marvels we so often miss in the busyness of our bustling lives, we must slow down and learn patience. After admiring and duly noting Fakhouri’s philosophical point, I made sure to slow down and absorb each note of Bruckner’s 4th with careful attention. Each movement was around 15 minutes in length, and it blew by as quickly and unsuspectingly as a sudden breeze. 

Symphony No. 4 was the only one Bruckner officially declared “Romantic,” highlighting the images and colors of the past. His symphony behaves like a vignette, hinting at familiar themes that conjure up images of castles, monarchs, and knights on horseback. It transported me to a time of valor, a time of intrepid soldiers, of drawbridges and moats and marketplaces and swords and shields and chain armor. 

I was simultaneously mesmerized by the musicians themselves. The sheer agility and stamina of the orchestra paid the highest honor to the composers. I sat in shock as I watched the violinists worked their arms like machines. They were surely exhausted by the end of the concert. I am confident Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Bruckner would have been proud of those musicians’ dedication to getting every last measure, every last note down to perfection. 

To conclude, at the end of his pre-concert interview, Fakhouri explained that he could not choose a favorite composer. He believes each composer has his place in time, and that each composer’s music reflects that. I must agree with such a sentiment. Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Bruckner were men shaped by the many cultures of Europe and the affairs of their time. Their symphonies are staples of their centuries, and with such an outlook comes great reverence to men and women of today who can appreciate such music. It was a tremendous treat to find myself enveloped in the music of Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Bruckner, three men whose music serves as their apotheoses. While these composers’ sheet music may collect dust and surrender to the endless trudge of time, their music will prevail, untouched as the stars above, for audiences to enjoy centuries from now as they have centuries past. 

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