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jeffAudio - The Music of Jeff Hentschel
Concert Review: Hilary Hahn plays Goldmark 
Tuesday night was the last performance by Hilary Hahn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit, and she was determined not to disappoint the audience. The program opened with Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture. The orchestra did an excellent job on this short introductory work.

Hilary Hahn, a violinist who has won numerous awards for her artistry took the stage with a commanding presence. While perhaps not as flamboyant as other violinists of her generation, she played the Goldmark concerto with amazing technical prowess and impressive intonation. The audience was certainly overjoyed by her playing that many of them stood up as soon as the piece was over. Hahn then proceeded to appease them by announcing she would play "Andante from Sonata No. 2 by Bach" in a voice sounding like the exact opposite of her playing. This piece was performed just as well as the concerto with spectacular intonation.

After a brief intermission, Dutoit led the orchestra to play Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony. The first two movements were filled with emotion, although the later movements seemed not to have the full vigor of the previous pieces. Still, it was a great performance.

Overall, the concert was excellent. The three pieces seemed to compliment each other making sure not to give the audience too much at once.
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Shaham Plays Elgar 
This incredible concert showcased three very different pieces highlighting the talents of both Zinman and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It's not often a composer is at the concert of his piece, but Saturday night Golijov was there to congratulate the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on their phenomenal performance of his Last Round. This Argentine piece for string orchestra and small ensemble envoked enough emotions to keep you on the edge of your seat. And while the second half may have been of a completely different tune, the Zinman changed beats seamlessly from "macho, cool and dangerous" to a much more intimate sound. The entire piece was excellently crafted and the CSO did their first performance of Golijov's work justice.

After a short set change, Gil Shaham took the stage in his normal exuberance to perform Elgar's flamboyant violin concerto. Such a difficult concerto can be extremely tiring on both the soloist and the orchestra, but neither Zinman nor Shaham backed down, Shaham maintaining a close connection with the conductor to keep a tight performance.

Following two amazing pieces is always hard, but the CSO didn't disappoint by an astounding performance of Schumann's second symphony. The entire orchestra was in step with Zinman and met his lofty demands of greatness. The adagio expressivo gave the audience a short chance to catch their breath and reflect as they were soon sent back to finale which ended triumphantly.

While the orchestra did a great job, the only thing that could have made it better were the seats. While buying the student tickets saves a lot of money, we were seated in the terrace section which is oddly located behind the orchestra. Concert halls are designed however to project sound away from the orchestra and so you get a different sound in that area. I felt that being located directly above the basses and percussion resulted in an overall "bassy" tone that may have been remedied by a different location. Another concern of mine was the soloist. A great testament to Shaham's violin, it was able to be heard, but it would have been nice if the orchestra was a bit softer. Sitting on the terrace did provide a unique view of Zinman and the orchestra and allowed you to follow his movements more closely.
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Concert Review: The Russian Greats 
Disclaimer: I perform with Philharmonia, so the review may be biased. Tonight, Philharmonia, comprised mostly of non-music majors put on a show dubbed "The Russian Greats." While Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev are clearly great, where does Bordin fit in? To start off the program, guest conductor Christina Chen conducted the simple and repetative In the Steppes of Central Asia by Borodin. The piece was performed well, which is good considering there were only two main melodies to get down. However, perhaps the lighter piece was chosen as a contrast to the masterpieces that followed.

Gared Crawford took the stage for the second piece, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto. His amazing performance surely dazzled the audience with excellent runs and wonderful style. During the slower parts, the tone he produced was extremely rich in color. The orchestra stayed with him most of the time, although it could have been better.

After intermission, Dr. Robert Hasty conducted Tchaikovsky's Symphony 2 "Little Russian." I'm not quite sure what happened in the first movement, but the overall togetherness was lacking. Fortunately, the orchestra seemed to get back on track by the end and most of the rest of the performance was excellent. There was one part where the horns seemed to be out of tune with each other, which was too bad bad since they were rather exposed. The presto finale was performed amazingly well and definitely excited the audience who applauded loudly and gave a standing ovation.

As this was the last concert of the season, the repetoire performed was the best of all concerts, and perhaps the performance was one of the best. After intermession, Dr. Hasty read the names of the seniors and bid them farewell. This was a great concert to end the season with.
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Concert Review: NU Performs Adams, Shostakovich 
Tonight's concert began with the performance of Franz Liszt's (1811-1886) The Black Gondola as orchestrated by John Adams (1947-). While perhaps the piece was not the best in the concert, it was performed very well. Maestro Yampolsky orchestrated what could have been seen as foreshadowing to Richard Wagner's death. Liszt had written the piece after seeing Wagner's ill condition, and shortly before he died. One could clearly see the "black gondola" swimming cleanly through water in an ominous surrounding taking the noted composer to rest.

Second on the program was Shostakovich's fantastical Violin Concerto performed with incredible dexterity by Gerardo Ribeiro. While his fingers seemed to fly across the strings in the later movement, perhaps it was masking the underlying lack of true emotion and movement that seemed slightly exposed in the slower movements. The orchestra, however, had a decided advantage with their conductor being one of the few to have heard the concerto before it was released. Yampolsky's father was a friend of Oistrakh, for whom the piece was dedicated, and as a young child, he was privy to the piece as it was constructed. The piece was undoubtedly performed as Shostakovich created it to be, and deserved the ovation that followed.

Perhaps the earlier criticism was simply because of the extraordinary performance of John Adams' Harmonium which burst of emotion and captured the required nuances to perfect the certain level of minimalism in the composition. For this piece, NUSO was joined by the symphonic choir. The first part of the piece is based on Negative Love by John Donne. The work here can clearly be seen as minimalist, yet is different from other works. Adams does not dwell too long on the same repetition, constantly have subtle changes which are exacted upon by the orchestra. The overall picture creates a collage of tones that have a certain mesmerising effect on the listener. The transition between the second and third movements really shows the talent of the orchestra. As the second part, Because I Could Not Stop For Death goes into Wild Nights both by Emily Dickenson, you can feel the dark death slowly coming to life. Throughout the finale, there was vivid imagery as the orchestra and choir united to become one. At the end, you left feeling very satisfied from an excellent performance.
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