University Symphony Orchestra strikes a chord with “Passion and Pyrotechnics”

On Sept. 29 and 30, the University Symphony Orchestra filled the Griffin Concert Hall with the sound of Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms. The audience leaned back and let the programmatic music – that is, music composed roughly in the 1800s that is intended to evoke a specific visual in the listener’s mind – carry them away into a realm of emotion, beauty and history.

The crowded concert hall featured community members, CSU faculty and a large number of Music Appreciation students there to analyze the performance and write an essay for the class. The line to enter the concert hall before the doors even opened extended to the back of the room and wrapped around the opposite wall. The vast number of patrons received a stellar performance featuring some of the best musicians from the University.


The first part of the concert was a performance of “Coriolan Overture, Op. 62” by Ludwig van Beethoven. It introduced the energetic and emotional nature of the concert that followed with powerful and precise music that varied in tempo and dynamics. It switched between minor and major keys — in other words, between “happy” and “sad” sequences of notes — to elicit different responses in each of the individual audience members. The musicians in the orchestra skillfully flew through complex runs and jumped between high and low notes to create an emotional atmosphere that elicited visual responses unique to each audience member, which is a trademark of Beethoven who was a notorious musical rule-breaker that preferred to compose music that broke out of traditional classical structures to create a strong response in the audience.

The next part of the concert featured Caleb Hudson, Julliard graduate and new trumpet professor at Colorado State. Hudson is also the newest member of the Canadian Brass. Hadyn’s “Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major” featured the orchestra as accompaniment for the solo trumpet who stood in front by the conductor’s podium, playing all of his music memorized. Hudson played an array of quick, chromatic runs with a soft and pure sound that requires a great amount of skill and dexterity. The concerto featured three movements: “Allegro,” a lively opening piece; “Andante,” a calmer and slower movement with variations of the original theme; and “Finale, Allegro,” which returned to a fast tempo to finish out the concerto on an upbeat note. The entire concerto depicted a generally positive emotional state by playing in primarily major keys.

After a short intermission, the conductor addressed the audience consisting largely of MU-100 students and explained the background and history of the final part of the concert, Brahms’ “Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90.” The orchestra played through bits and pieces of the movement to demonstrate what the audience should listen for in the full symphony. The symphony was composed by Johannes Brahms in 1883 when he allegedly wrote the symphony about his relationship with a singer named Hermine Spies. The four movements outline the emotions associated with a summer relationship: giddiness and euphoria, peaceful content, melancholy and uneasiness, and finally angst and anger. Each movement consisted of a theme that varied and repeated itself throughout the symphony. The orchestra created an atmosphere where everyone could sit back and let the music sweep their emotions into the past. Many MU-100 students paused their note-taking to just listen to the visual music the Symphony Orchestra had spent weeks working hard to create.

Technicality-wise, the orchestra played vastly differing themes, tempos, keys and dynamics, creating an interesting blend of musical literature that jumped between emotional states. The concert gave many patrons a new understanding of an entire history and culture from a particular musical time period, both through the performances and with help from the conductor’s brief explanation of why the composer created the music a certain way. “Passion and Pyrotechnics” opened the orchestra’s performance season on a positive note, paving the way for more eye-opening performances throughout the year.