By Nancy Plum
The Princeton University Orchestra opened the 2022-23 season this past weekend honoring a longtime member of the University Music Department and featuring a dynamic and outstanding piano soloist from within the student body. Under the direction of conductor Michael Pratt, the University Orchestra showed its collective ability to take on any challenge while exploring the most difficult of musical repertoire in the ensemble’s annual Peter Westergaard Memorial Concerts. Friday night’s performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was repeated Saturday night) included two works composed less than 50 years apart, but each a technical wonder in itself and demanding the most from the Orchestra players.
Composer Frédéric Chopin may have been born in Poland, but his music was heavily influenced by his residency in early 19th-century Paris. Much of the repertoire from Chopin’s all-too-short life was for solo piano, and his music has been an influence on piano composition ever since. Chopin composed only two piano concertos, and his earliest work in this genre bridged musical evolution between the tunefulness of Mozart and the complexity of the mid-19th century composers.
Composed when Chopin was merely 20, Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 in E minor was a rich symphonic work full of revolutionary musical colors from both piano and orchestra. The first movement’s extended instrumental introduction displayed long melodic violin lines, clean light winds and Chopin’s obvious affinity for the cello. For this past weekend’s performances, the University Orchestra featured senior Kyrie McIntosh, who has studied piano since early childhood. Exuding confidence at the keyboard from the outset, McIntosh began the piano solo with a dramatic flourish. In a movement of wistful reflection, McIntosh demonstrated great fluidity in both hands and considerable sparkle in the highest registers of the keyboard. McIntosh effectively introduced a gentle second theme, accompanied by clean horn playing from Selena Hostetler, and later contrasted by McIntosh’s dramatic left-hand octaves against a nonstop right hand. more