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Jamie Weed
Art 200
Event Paper
Listening to the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra perform was unbelievable. They started
out by playing “In the Steppes of Central Asia” by Alexander Borodin. Then they moved on and
played the four movements of “Concert No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 16” by
Sergei Prokofiev.
The piano accompaniment was played by Mikhail Yanovitsky.
“Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste Mussorgsky was performed.
The music was more smooth and flowing, which I would personally classify that type of
music under the basic heading of classical. The performance was at Hering Auditorium, which
is not very fancy or exquisite. It is just an auditorium in a high/middle school that functions,
nothing more, nothing less. The atmosphere was fairly laid back to characterize they type of
people who would go, Alaskans. Some of the people were very dresses up and decked out in
their finest while most went in jeans and t-shirts.
Alexander Borodin who wrote “In the Steppes of Central Asia” as well as several other
works was an amateur Russian composer that was thought to be “as talented as any of his
professional contemporaries.” This piece was written “for [the] jubilee of Czar Alexander II, to
accompany the historical tableau that would be part of the festivities.” (
“In the Steppes of Central Asia” was preformed by using twenty-three violins, twelve
violas, ten violoncellos, four basses, one flute, two oboe, two English horn, one clarinet, two
bassoons, five horns, three trumpets, two trombones, two bass trombones, and one timpani. The
stage includes seventy-one performers including the conductor. Everyone was dressed up and
looking nice. How the people are set up is just like the modern symphony orchestra to allow for
the best acoustics.
The piece starts out quiet then comes to a climax. If one closed their eyes and just
listened to the music one might think it sounded rather thin to begin with and then became
thicker as it climaxed. However, if one opened their eyes they would realize that there is so
much involved in the “thin” parts that the music is thick indeed.
This piece was exciting and reminded me of being outside. The main instruments were
the flute and clarinet leading and the cello and violin as back up. I imagined it as the flute and
clarinet being the people that were experiencing the scene as they moved across the steppes. The
cello was like the sun as it beat down on the earth and the violins were the sound of the rustling
grass. If one closed their eyes, they could experience the scene. The sound of the grass as it
rustles in the breeze, the smell the dirt beneath one’s feet, and the sun shining bright in one’s face
seemed very evident to me. The name of the piece led me to agree with my interpretation. “In
the Steppes of Central Asia” sounds like it would be outside in the elements in a dry land. It
would feel isolated, yet friendly. The sun would be hot blazing above the horizon to light up the
red clay-like dirt.
The second selection that was played was written by Sergei Prokofiev. The piece include
the four movements of “Concert No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 16”. It has been
said that Prokofiev is one of the greatest composer of the twentieth century. (http://www.
Prokofiev’s four movements were performed by one piano, twenty-three violins, twelve
violas, ten violoncellos, four basses, one flute, two oboe, one clarinet, two bassoons, five horns,
three trumpets, two trombones, one tuba, one timpani, and four percussion (this included a
tambourine, bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals). The stage includes seventy-three performers
including the conductor.
The orchestra was set up in such a way that at the end of each movement there was a
pause so that we, the audience, could better follow the music. As a whole, the piece sounded
jumbled, and did not flow smoothly at all. It sounded a bit off and it did not mix well. It seemed
like each instrument was playing something different and together nothing related except the fact
that they were all playing at once. It was comparable to when at the beginning of a performance
the instruments are tuning and they are uncoordinated with each other. That is what the piece
brought to my mind. The pianist was very talented but the piece he performed did not do him
justice. It sounded like he was pounding the keys with no purpose.
Each movement was different and contained it’s own set of rules. The first, “Andantino”,
was very powerful and contained a climax. It sounded very thick and out of order.
The second movement, “Scherzo: Vivace”, was very intense and didn’t contain a climax
because in a sense it was all climax. If the movements were not broken up this movement would
be considered the climax of the whole piece. It reminded me of falling. With the instruments
and how the conductor lead the orchestra when I closed my eyes I felt like I was falling deeper
and deeper into blackness.
The third movement, “Intermezzo: Allegro moderato”, had a lot of the percussion in it.
The boom, boom, boom reminded me of a chase with very heavy footsteps or heavy breathing.
It was very think and involved. It contained several smaller climaxes.
The forth and final movement, “Finale: Allegro tempestoso”, the piano did a solo in parts
and it just sounded awful! He was pounding the keys with fury and speed but pounding is still
just pounding! He incorporated some jazz methods into an orchestra. With his technique and
hand movements, he contributed a jazz sound into the music.
There were many smaller
climaxes, and the texture was thin until the periodic climaxes where the texture picked up some.
The last piece the orchestra performed was “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste
Mussorgsky. In 1873 a dear friend of Mussorgsky passed on. Victor Hartmann was a painter and
architect; a year after he passed on Mussorgsky was inspired by an exhibition of Hartmann’s
Mussorgsky created “Pictures at an Exhibition” in honor of Victor Hartmann.
(http://hallopera. com/sheet_music_scores/233.shtml)
“Pictures at an Exhibition” is supposed to be performed with a piano as lead but this
Fairbanks Orchestra Symphony did not use a piano at all for this piece. Together with nine
violin 1’s, fourteen violin 2’s, twelve violas, ten violoncellos, four basses, five horns, one tuba,
two trombones, one harp, trombones one Celeste, and percussion interments. (http://www.light.
For “Pictures at an Exhibition” the orchestra did not pause between movements; it was a
bit more difficult to follow, however, one could still detect the chance in movements as they
progressed. The music began very thunderous and robust; it sounded a bit off beat, but then
came together and was quite melodic. The music of the movement “Promenade” became quite
familiar by the end because it was played four noted times. A different variation was played
each time, so that it was not exactly the same but the melody was still there. Each time a
different instrument was used to alter how it sounded. It sounded relaxing, soothing, and almost
sleepy. There were several climaxes throughout the piece. It was easy to follow and very well
put together!
From listening to the music I closed my eyes, but I couldn’t think of anything it reminded
me of more than a Disney movie. I’m not sure if the “Promenade” plays in on of their movies,
but that was all I could think of; I just couldn’t get that idea out of my mind. This was definitely
my favorite piece of all they played that evening.
Overall the Fairbanks Orchestra Symphony did a wonderful job of putting these pieces
together. Their talent was most definitely enjoyed by all.