Image: University of St Andrews Music Society.
Image: University of St Andrews Music Society.

On Tuesday 19 November the University of St Andrews Symphony Orchestra showcased some of their immense talent in Younger Hall, through two early 20th century pieces as well as a world première of a piece written to celebrate the University’s 600th anniversary.

The night commenced with the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No 5. The music begun in a serene manner, but the energetic ending of Allegro Molto set the tone for the evening. Sibelius was followed by the world première of Ever to Excel, commissioned in 2013 by the Orchestra as part of the University’s anniversary celebrations. The aim of its composer, Mark David Boden, was to “allude to the rich history of the University, charting its development chronologically through music”. It was intriguing to attend a world première, as there was no way to know what to expect. For this piece the Symphony Orchestra was joined by the Choir of the 600th who provided vocals to further dramatise the piece. In the beginning the choir seemed to feel a bit unsure of themselves, but as time passed they grew more and more confident and the orchestra and vocalists felt more united. The piece was very dramatic, and one could feel the different influences of a variety of time periods. The Scottish influence could also be heard as the piece ended triumphantly.

Following the interval, the best was saved for last as the Symphony Orchestra performed Rachmaninoff’s famous Piano Concerto No 3 accompanied by the brilliant soloist Viv McLean. The piece is known to be one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire and has been performed by some of the most talented pianists in the world. To begin with there was a slight unbalance, as one could mostly hear the soloist and not the orchestra, however soon enough the two were in harmony and one could immensely enjoy this fantastic piece and observe Viv McLean’s amazing performance.

This was a great night at the symphony. We are lucky to have a Music Society that organises these wonderful events. The St Andrews Symphony Orchestra is full of young and talented performers and the fact that they can get such accomplished soloists to perform is amazing. I highly recommend that classical music fans make use of the fact that we have a symphony orchestra and go and enjoy their concerts. Next on the Music Society’s agenda are Friday lunchtime concerts, the 600th anniversary finale concert and Christmas carols in St Salvator’s Chapel; these events should certainly not be missed!

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