Five stars for Pentathlon performance

Arts - orchestra

The UTSA Orchestra, conducted under Eugene Dowdy, consists of over 80 dedicated members. On Nov. 16 in the Recital Hall of the Arts Building, this talented group performed the second concert in a series of performances called “Pentathlon.”

Each of the five Pentathlon concerts are centered around various composers’ fifth symphonies. The Pentathlon II showcased Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47.

Villa-Lobos, a Brazilian composer, was born in 1917 and passed away in 1995. The Bachianas Brasilerias No. 5 is the fifth in a series of nine suites that were written in 1938. Villa-Lobos’ piece was performed first on Sunday afternoon.

This light composition is written for a Soprano and Cello Orchestra. UTSA Professor of Music Linda Poetschke, the featured Soprano, holds vocal performance degrees from both the University of North Texas at Denton and the University of Texas at Austin. This accomplished vocalist has performed in over 50 oratorical and concert roles.

Poetschke and a group of cello players took the audience on a lovely, effervescent journey during their performance. The first part of the song featured Poetschke’s strong vocals combined with the cello orchestra playing two different parts – half of them finger-plucking and half of them bowing. The combination of sounds created a playful and joyful effect that left smiles on the faces of all who listened. The final note – the high-held hum of the Soprano – rang across the auditorium and was the perfect end to a fantastic opening piece.

The second and final piece that the UTSA orchestra performed was Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47 by Shostakovich. Shostakovich was a Russian composer who lived from 1840 to 1893. To introduce the second half, Dowdy told the audience the story behind Shostakovich and explained that the composer lived under the Stalin regime of Russia, a time when people were regularly persecuted and oppressed.

The Stalin regime reprimanded Shostakovich for writing depressing music and demanded he write something that conveyed hope. Shostavich responded with Symphony No. 5.

The piece is about 45 minutes long and contains four movements. The struggles that Shostakovich faced are clearly heard throughout the movements; however, in the words of Dowdy, a “controlled joy” is also present. Different solos, from instruments such as the flute or clarinet, burst through the piece’s myriad of sound. These solos stand in direct contrast to the angry, repressed sound that dominates the rest of each movement.

The music in each of these pieces ebbs and flows, transitioning from light solos and duets to a cacophony of sound when the entire orchestra plays together.

When the percussion enters, a frustrated fervor is introduced to the overall performance, leading with suspense to the focal point in each movement. The percussion in the fourth movement also illustrates the iconic soldier march that Shostakovich must have heard every day. The UTSA orchestra’s rendition of this piece captured the emotions that Shostakovich endured and allowed audience members’ imaginations to paint a detailed picture of the events that occurred during the Stalin Terror.

Each soloist displayed fantastic skill and true artistry throughout the concert. The UTSA Orchestra moved everyone in the audience to give a standing ovation at the conclusion of the four movements.

The next three Pentathlon concerts will take place during the spring 2015 semester.