First orchestra concert showcases Romantic repertoire

The Vassar College Orchestra, under the direction of Eduardo Navega, will present their first concert of the year on Saturday, Oct. 8 in Skinner’s Mary Ana Fox Martel Recital Hall. Courtesy of Vassar College
The Vassar College Orchestra, under the direction of Eduardo Navega, will present their first concert of the year on Saturday, Oct. 8 in Skinner’s Mary Ana Fox Martel Recital Hall. Courtesy of Vassar College
The Vassar College Orchestra, under the direction of Eduardo Navega, will present their first concert of the year on Saturday, Oct. 8 in Skinner’s Mary Ana Fox Martel Recital Hall. Courtesy of Vassar College

Each semester, Vassar College’s Orchestra puts on three different concerts. Its open­ing show will be on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. in the Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall and will feature works by Mendelssohn and Dvorák. Its conductor, Senior Lecturer in Music and Di­rector of Orchestral Activities Eduardo Navega, promises that it will not disappoint fans of Ro­mantic classical music.

Being a member of an orchestra is not an easy task. With two practices totaling five hours per week and constant individual practice, it may seem too much to handle. However, Navega’s students say it’s all worth it. Oboist Fiona Hart ’18 explained why she makes sacrifice: “For me, going to rehearsal is not work. Even though or­chestra is a class, It’s a really good way to de-stress because playing an instrument is a pas­sion of mine, and orchestra has proven to be a fun outlet for me.”

Hart has played the oboe since her sopho­more year and is a biology major. She has found that the arts and sciences are continually vying for her attention, but through a meticulously scheduled Google Calendar, she makes it all work.

Lucy Ellman ’19, who has been playing the cello since the fourth grade, loves orchestra be­cause of her excellent instructor. She comment­ed, “Eduardo is truly wonderful … Through his kind nature and patience, he gets us to sound the best that we can.”

As Hart exclaimed, “I love Eduardo—he’s re­ally nice and approachable. He’s very serious about orchestra, but he critiques in a way that you’re able to change and want to play better. There is a pressure to improve, but rehearsing is always a positive experience.” An orchestra is not complete without its instructor, and every member seemed to adore Navega and all of his efforts.

The orchestra performs predominantly Ro­mantic classical music. There are fewer stu­dents this year, but that might be a good thing. Ellman explained, “I think we’re more attune to everyone and it’s more of a community. We’re going to sound really good, and the pieces are cool to play, which makes rehearsals fun and en­gaging.” The students are also quite passionate about the different pieces.

Hart remarked, “I was kind of feeling stag­gered in my way of performing in a large group setting, but every so often you get a piece that re-energizes your love for playing in an orches­tral setting, and for me Mendelssohn’s Fifth has really reminded me why I love performing in orchestra.”

Now how does a show come together? During the summer, Navega researches a potential rep­ertoire and has a few pieces ready to go. Once he has auditioned everyone, as every student must re-audition every year, he knows the potential of the orchestra and can choose which pieces to use. The first concert of the season is always the most exciting, as it is the first time the first-years step on stage. Navega enjoys seeing the excitement on their faces minutes before the concert begins.

You can tell how much Navega loves conduct­ing by the way he describes the pieces and the instruments. When Navega explained how the violins are especially strong this year and that there are more bassoons than ever before, the passion in his voice is clear. He truly loves what he does. This is the first college orchestra Nave­ga has worked with, and he has been conducting for Vassar since 1999. Conducting is his life, and Vassar is his home.

The program opens with the Fourth Move­ment of Dvorák’s “Slavonic Dances.” Navega explained why he chose the movement: “It’s a very nice piece in terms of character. It has that very Slavonic character that Dvorák’s very good at. He uses a rich orchestration for that piece, so it shows the orchestra really well. You can pin­point each instrument.”

After the opening piece is Mendelssohn’s Symphony Number 5, which Navega particular­ly appreciates because of its interesting history. The symphony was performed two years after it was written, and then not performed again un­til 20 years after Mendelssohn’s death. Navega commented, “It was a piece that was forgotten. But then it became very popular and is now a very traditional piece of orchestral repertoire, as the writing is very rich and goes well with the Dvorák piece.”

These pieces were chosen together to care­fully highlight this year’s orchestra and to create a dynamic experience for the audience. Both works are from the Romantic period and, while technically challenging, are rewarding pieces to play.

Navega expressed, “Students like to play this kind of music. The themes are very recogniz­able, so you remember that tune from the first movement that shows up in the third. It’s an ef­fective use of the orchestra, as it uses the full potential of the string section, woodwinds and brass, and you can hear the instruments very clearly.”

He went on, “It has some complexities, but the students are doing great in rehearsal. They’re two pieces that use well the resources that we have in the orchestra, and I believe it’s going to be a good concert.”

These students are not just playing for the college credit, or to boost their grad school ap­plications. They’re playing because they truly love what they do and are passionate about oth­ers hearing their work.

As Hart concluded, “There’s no point in play­ing an instrument unless you’re playing for peo­ple.”

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