“Great virtuosity, great heart.” Those words radiated out into Richardson Auditorium when Michael Pratt introduced the concert soloists for the Princeton University Orchestra spring concert and spoke of their accomplishments. After his introduction, Solène Le Van ’18 walked out onto the stage in a flowing burgundy dress. She stood up on the podium, earrings glittering, orchestra hugging the air around her, and began to sing.
She sang soprano in her performance of “Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24,” composed by Samuel Barber. At the beginning of the piece, her voice cut through the room like a gentle breeze. When the piece picked up, her vibrato filled the auditorium and the audience was left mesmerized by her performance. The auditorium was completely silent immediately after she finished the piece. Then the applause began. Noah Pacis ’21, a member of PUO, described Le Van’s performance as “masterful: She commanded the stage through her voice alone.” And many others felt Le Van’s stage presence just as powerfully. Many audience members approached her afterward and congratulated her on her impeccable performance.
Leland Ko ’20, an accomplished cellist, was the second soloist. He stepped out onto the stage after Le Van’s performance. He had a stoic aura at first, but his expressions became more emotional throughout the piece “Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque,” composed by Ernest Bloch. With his cello and his facial expressions, Ko beautifully conveyed the emotions in the music. In the middle of the piece, he gazed down at his lap with sadness and the audience was able to understand that in this moment, the piece spoke of a hurtful story and message. Dane Jacobson ’21 described Ko’s piece as “profound and despairing.”
“The performance was very professional and I enjoyed playing and listening to every moment of it,” said Jacobson. Ko’s performance took a piece of music and told a story, which is what every great musician strives to do.
The last soloist of the night wore a beautiful red dress and played “Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63,” composed by Sergei Prokofiev. Hana Mundiya ’20 confidently stepped out onto the stage, faced the audience, and began playing the concerto. The striking sound of her violin surprised the audience. And as the orchestra began to play, the piece turned into a conversation between the soloist and the orchestra. Mundiya was comfortable on stage because she is a part of PUO and had many friends who were playing on stage with her.
“I have never played a piece like this with my friends in an orchestra, so it was really great to be able to play with my friends,” said Mundiya in an interview after her performance. She felt that her performance on Friday night went well and was excited to play the concerto because she has been wanting to perform this piece on stage since the age of 13. “[The parts that I enjoyed most were] the lyrical sections in the second movement,” said Mundiya.
The piece that she was playing not only highlighted the violin solo but also was accompanied by interesting musical parts from other sections of the orchestra. There was always something going on in the piece for both the soloist and the orchestra. Finally, Mundiya finished off her piece with an adrenaline rush of a third movement that filled the entire auditorium with energy. It was a strong finish to her performance and she exited the stage to a huge round of applause.
The last part of the concert was PUO’s performance of “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28,” composed by Richard Strauss. The piece was highly energetic, ending the night on a strong and high note.