The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra visited Fairfield on April 10 to perform at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Performing Arts. Conductor Jonathan Yates was at the helm as the orchestra performed several classical pieces from the 1800s. The symphony divided the show into two acts that managed to cover several movements by the legendary composers Chopin and Tchaikovsky, providing the audience with a beautiful listening experience.
Before the concert began, both Yates and the orchestra’s guest pianist, Frederic Chiu, hosted a pre-talk for the audience. The two decided to structure the talk on the two of them discussing their experiences with playing classical music and allowed a brief Q&A session with the audience afterwards.
Yates began the talk by teasing the audience with what to expect from their performance.
“We’re doing something brand new today with Chopin’s [F Minor] concerto … we are doing it with a string orchestra,” said Yates.
“It’s something in between the full orchestra version and the chamber version, and I think it’s a lovely experiment that we’re really enjoying,” continued Yates.
The conversation shifted when Chiu spoke of his experience with Chopin as a musician dedicated to performing his work.
“This is a piece that I have played nearly my whole life … and in many versions. Tonight is yet another variation on his works, and it’s great to play it this way to see which version is the ideal one,” said Chiu.
After the pre-talk, the concert immediately began with the orchestra taking their seats in anticipation of the conductor. The first act of the concert focused primarily on Chopin, as it opened up with a beautiful performance of the first movement of Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor,” which then led into the introduction of Chiu.
Since the majority of Chopin’s work utilizes the piano as the focal point, Chiu had the considerable task of playing as the primary instrument for the entirety of the first act, a task that he was highly successful at.
The rest of the string orchestra provided a minimal layer of sound to accent the piano playing. Chiu was able to perfectly capture the intense playing style demanded by Chopin and received a standing ovation from the audience by the end of the first half.
The second half of the concert switched gears and focused on the works of Tchaikovsky. Beginning with Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings in C Major,” the concert took on a different musical aesthetic as the piano suddenly became a background instrument. The string section in turn became the new focal point with the entire sound becoming more balanced overall. The concert ended with a finale that contained the typical expression found in Tchaikovsky’s work, as the string section swelled to a climax, punctuated by the gentle sounds of the piano.
The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, with its renditions of Chopin and Tchaikovsky, managed to perfectly capture the beauty of both composers’ work. By presenting the different movements with just a string section and a piano, the orchestra ultimately achieved a lush interpretation that proved to be a fantastic listening experience for the audience.