By Maria Rodriguez
In the space of the divine, the glittering mosaics of St. Matthew’s Cathedral provided a mirror to backdrop the exquisite sounds made by the CUA Symphony Orchestra. At the baton of Simeone Tartaglione, the members of the orchestra played compositions by Beethoven, Barber, and a world premiere by Simpson.
Daniel Kuehler, Master’s Candidate in Piano Performance, performed as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in G major. Kuehler, an accomplished performer, expressed his interpretation of Beethoven with musical sonority and accented intent. Beethoven can be dry for those who are unacquainted with his music. For those of us who do not spend morning, noon, and night in the music school, some of the nuances of Beethoven’s composition are lost. All the audience has is the sound; and that sound comes through most clearly in the delivery of the soloist. Kuehler is an accessible pianist, making Beethoven appear is the most attractive light, quite an admirable quality.
After a brief intermission, soprano Emily Casey, Master’s Candidate in Vocal Performance, stood her own against the weight of the orchestra. There is little that is more impressive than a single voice, unamplified, carrying its sound over a full orchestra. Casey, who recently participated in the Master’s Class offered by famed soprano Renée Fleming, sang Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Casey delivered poignancy and power, both in moments of profound quiet and in the more stellar instances where Casey resounded over the swelling of the orchestra at full force.
With the first half of the program dedicated to the more traditional – both pieces were Beethoven – and the second half attending to more contemporary composers, there was a pleasant balance struck in the programming of the concert.
The final piece was a World Premiere by composer Andrew Simpson, entitled, Agamemnon Suite. This was a superb finale, full of cinema and relatable sound. Movie music is a bursting genre. Even those that don’t seek out the dusty corners of Brahms or Bach listen to Howard Shore and John Williams. For many, the plaintive is expressed best in film, so it was apropos that the symphony concert ended with a memorable note for the public.