On March 10 and 11 the Hillsdale College Orchestra will open with the “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and close with the “Symphonic Metamorphosis by Carl Maria von Weber” by 20th century composer Paul Hindemith. Concerto winners, sophomores Anika Top and Viktor Rozsa, will play pieces by Franz Liszt and Edward Elgar.
“Everything’s either from the 19th or 20th century,” said James Holleman, associate professor of music and music director for the concert.
Each of the spring orchestra concerts consists of four pieces. Two of them are strictly orchestral, and Holleman selects these. For the March concert, he chose Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphisis” and Tchaicovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” in part because both works feature an English horn, which the music department bought over the summer.
Beyond the availability of instruments, Holleman said there are a number of factors he considers when selecting orchestral pieces. The educational growth of orchestra members, balanced programming, entertainment value, and challenging the students, a more difficult task this year.
“We have strong woodwinds, strong brass, strong strings, strong percussion. So it’s a very balanced orchestra as far as the talent. In past years, we’ve had some sections stronger than others,” Holleman said. “But this year, what’s unique is that they are all equally strong and young. We’re not graduating — I mean, we’re graduating seniors — but not the largest amount we’ve ever graduated, and we have people waiting in line for their spots. So the health of the orchestra for next year is also going to be very good.”
The other two pieces are chosen by the concerto winners. Each musician works with his or her teacher during the fall to prepare for the audition in late Jan. Top and Rozsa auditioned, respectively, “Piano Concerto No.1 in E‑flat Major, S. 124” and “Concerto for Cello in E Minor, op. 85” and will be playing those pieces for the concert. Both Top and Rozsa had played their pieces in high school — Top for her senior recital, and Rozsa as a junior.
“It’s nice to give pieces a break and then come back to them. You have a greater maturity when it comes to playing it,” said Top, who worked with Hillsdale’s Teacher of Music Brad Blackham while at school and with a teacher from home over the summer and during Christmas break.
Both Top and Rozsa had performed only the first movements of their pieces in high school. When Rozsa began thinking about auditioning for the concerto competition, his music teacher told him he should learn the second, as well.
“He told me, ‘It’s one musical idea, so if you’re going to audition, you should do both of them,’” Rozsa said.
So he did.
“It showcases the full range of what a cello can do,” Rozsa said. “The first movement is really slow and emotional and really dynamic, and then the second movement just gets really fast and sort of furious, a bit, but still in sort of a funny way — it’s hard to describe. It goes through a range of different tonal colors.”
Rozsa and Top look forward to the performance this weekend.
“I’m excited to see how it all sounds,” Top said. “The orchestra just makes [the concerto] sound so full and vibrant.”
Rozsa anticipates the communion music brings.
“I think that music — it’s about sharing it with others. If you’re just holed up in a practice room all the time, it’s not really doing much for people. I think of concerts as being where the point of music is actually fulfilled.”