The Healing Transformation of Music

November 08, 2017 - 866 views

Modern life continues to be challenging. People find that they are assuming several roles: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, partner, parent, child, student, professor, administrator. Technology is ever present with us. People have their I-Phones, Smart Phones where they are incessantly gazing at screens, reading and sending E-Mail, perhaps even staying detached and isolated from others.

Where do people go for solace and peace in our modern digital age? Some opt for church, going to religious sacred sites, others may go to museums, and then there are others who attend the symphony.

On October 29,2017, I had the pleasure to attend the Mendelssohn Reformation concert performed by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra at Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus.

Despite the steady rain outside, a capacity crowd gathered inside this rich Romanesque building, featuring tile wall Mosaics Of Alexander The Great in a triumphal procession, to hear a wonderful program of Gil ucceli ( The Birds ) by Ottorino Respighi, Concerto For String Quartet and Winds WV 97 by Erwin Schulhoff and Symphony No. 5 in D Major OP107 “ Reformation” by Mendolssohn.

The Lark Quartet, a talented ensemble of four female musicians- three violinists and one cello player- provided great passion and artistry especially during the Schulhoff concerto.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra is truly blessed with sterling musicians, especially strong was the string section lead by Concertmaster Dora Dimitrova; the woodwind and horn sections were equally spectacular.

Regarding the program, Gil ucceli ( The Birds ) featured a contrast between strong regal staccato movements and sweet melodious transitions. The texture of the English Horns made this concerto work so well.

Perhaps, the most challenging portion of the program was the Erwin Schulhoff concerto. Schulhoff lived in the mid- twentieth century. He was considered to be a triple threat to the Nazis for being Jewish, an avowed Communist and a free-wheeling Modernist.

Schulhoff was deported to the Wurtzburg Concentration Camp near Wessenberg, Bavaria where he died of Tuberculosis at age 38. (Princeton Symphony Orchestra program notes).

This heritage and history is reflected in the music which experiments with a lot of different tonal ranges. The interplay between the Lark Quartet and the orchestra was quite striking and effective. The Schulhoff concerto is an intense piece of music.


Therefore, it was a delightful surprise that the Lark Quartet performed “He Loves, She Loves “ by George Gershwin as an encore. This selection was lovely and romantic; you could imagine Woody Allen using this as a soundtrack to tell a story about New York’s Upper East Side.

The main headlining selection was Mendelssohn’s Reformation. Here again the horn section stood out, punctuating a strong modern march style. This was accentuated by the staccato movement by the English Horns and Woodwinds. The final movement of this concerto artfully wove the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God “into a moving crescendo conclusion.

There are symphonies in this country that currently struggle: The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony are two musical institutions that have suffered financial challenges. Per a New York Times article:

“The financial challenge has grown as orchestras that could once count on support from business leaders and industrialists — when the Pittsburgh Symphony was founded at the turn of the last century, Pittsburgh was a booming steel town, and Andrew Carnegie helped support the ensemble — now must struggle to raise money in a very different kind of economy.
It used to be understood that there was a group of good community citizens, usually associated with the big companies in town who had deep ties to the community and a sense of civic responsibility,” Mr. Morris said. “Now companies are changing, they’re owned by holding companies, their headquarters are elsewhere, and CEOs move around.”

For Orchestras in the U.S., So Much Depends on Their Communities ...

Healthy symphonies depend upon a strong donor base and effective support from the community.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra possesses both features. Under the direction of Rossen Milanov, this orchestra is a delight to hear and they work hard to deliver creative and diverse programs. They have a bright future ahead for them.

I’m glad that on a rainy afternoon, I had the opportunity to relax, listen and marvel at these magnificently talented musicians.

They provided a Balaam, an oasis for the senses and for the heart.

They truly are messengers for the healing transformation of music.

May it be so.

Rev. Peter E. Bauer, Contributor
A Minister In The United Church Of Christ
The Huffington Post


Log in to comment