By CHRISTIAN MORRISON
The Redlands Symphony Orchestra put on a stunning concert at the University of Redlands Memorial Chapel on March 3, 2018. The show featured five pieces of music that included the famed “Mission: Impossible” theme song as the final song. The first three pieces were brought to life that night by the brilliant performance of the Redlands Symphony, and through their majestic symphony projected scenes from a time long-past into the minds of the audience. Yet the piece de resistance of the entire concert was the world premiere of “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra” composed by Lalo Schifrin; the composer of over 100 pieces for films and television that include such works as “Mission: Impossible” and “The Cincinnati Kid.” This magnificent piece of music was followed by an exhilarating performance of the “Mission: Impossible” theme song.
The first piece of music performed was “Concerto Grosso in D Major, op. 6 no. 5” by George Frideric Handel. This beautiful piece started off with an amazing and instantly captivating violin and cello melody that combined tense build up with satisfying release. After this, the piece shifted into what most would consider to be ballroom music, and one listening to the piece could almost see the ghostly figures of ballroom dancers from times past manifest themselves for the duration of the first part of the piece. Subtly, though, the music morphed from a rather upbeat and ebullient tone to a rather sad and depressed tone. Yet toward the end of the piece, one could hear traces of hopefulness as the piece again changed its mood, and as the end came upon the audience the piece was almost as cheery as it had originally been at the beginning. This natural progression of mood in the music gave it a life of its own and throughout the entire period of time which it was performed it seemed to portray a story where happiness gave way to sorrow but at the end was restored to its well-deserved cheerfulness.
The next piece of music was “Symphony No. 104 in D major, H. 1/104” composed by Franz Joseph Haydn. The first part of the symphony, unlike the previous concerto, was extremely melodramatic and serious with horns that blared out low notes which gave it that state of solemnity. This serious mood was then followed by a rather happy and content tone that was in complete contrast with the opening of the piece. The happy tone slowly progressed and turned into a very pompous tone, which one might envision being played when in the midst of royalty. The last part turned completely joyful and combined all aspects of the previous sections into one harmonic and accordant melody. After finding out that this piece also is referred to as “London” and was originally performed in the Kings Theater in London, it became a portrayal of London at the time of the composer. The first part represented the impressive and intimidating impressions one gets when coming upon London for the first time, the next represented the happy life of the average citizen in the city, then the royalty that inhabited the magnificent city and finally the combination of all of these elements to form the general perception of London. With this beautiful interpretation of life in a major city in the 18th century coming to a close, the audience was allowed some time to stretch and talk about the two pieces just performed during intermission.
After intermission, Schifrin was recognized by both the Dean of the Music department Andrew Glendening and the President of the University of Redlands Ralph Kuncl for his remarkable achievements and progress in the field of classical music and was presented an honorary doctorate in music. Looking upon Schifrin, one could gather a sense of accomplishment and respectability that only a man of the highest quality, like Schifrin, could convey. Following this award was “Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite 1, P. 109” composed by Ottorino Respighi. It was a very beautiful piece that, like Handel’s piece, started off beautiful and happy and slowly progressed into a state of decay where sadness reigned supreme until joy came into prominence again. However, unlike the first piece, this piece seemed to examine the solemnity present in the third part more thoroughly, and finds beauty in such emotions which are conveyed through the combined melodies of the violin, representing the beauty, and the trumpet, representing the deepest parts of the sadness.
Following the previous piece came the composition that everyone was waiting for: “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra” by Lalo Schifrin. This piece emphasized the use of the tuba, which was played by renown tubist Gene Pokorny of the Chicago Symphony, as an extension of the note range present in the majestic French horn. The tuba was played in frequent solos to emphasize the grandeur of the piece, and the xylophone, which was also played in occasional solos during the last part, helped to give the piece a cheerful tone towards the end. The majesty of this song can make the listener envision nature in all its glory and awesome power in a way that almost makes it seem real for the duration of the piece. This outstanding piece was followed by Lalo Schifrin’s own “Mission: Impossible.” Though a very familiar song, it was very refreshing to hear it performed live, which allowed the audience to catch the little, intricate details that makes the song a masterpiece.
All in all, the entire concert put on by the Redlands Symphony Orchestra was absolutely astounding with beautifully conducted pieces. The entire orchestra deserves much praise for their flawless performance of all five pieces, especially for “Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra” which had never been performed before a live audience until this concert. Much commendation also should go to Ransom Wilson for his excellent conducting throughout all five pieces. For those interested in classical music, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra is an excellent musical organization that can help embrace the love for such music in a more profound way.