Today marks my first time going to a Ravinia concert this season, and who better to watch than Joshua Bell and Michael Stern leading the IU Jacobs School of Music Summer Festival Orchestra?
Today also marks IU’s centennial concert – that’s right, the music department at IU is now officially 100 years old. The conductor Michael Stern thought it important enough to interrupt our program with this announcement, so I might as well put it here (ha!). But regardless of what he said, I thought the IU orchestra played very well tonight, especially Dukas’ L’apprenti sorcier (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). Anyone remember watching Disney’s Fantasia? Well, this piece was played during the scene where Mickey, the Magician’s apprentice, decides to use magic to help him with the chores, but it all goes haywire when the broom he’s brought to life refuses to stop doing the chores, causing the place to flood with soapy water and chaos. Yeah, even I thought it wasn’t possible to overdo your chores. Anyway, Dukas’ piece brings this scene to life, and I could picture the scene really well in my mind’s eye, even though I haven’t watched Fantasia since forever.
After the intermission was Josh Bell’s turn to shine, who played Bruch’s Fantasie unter freier Benutzung schottischer Volksmelodien (“Scottish Fantasy”) Op. 46. There were 5 variations – my personal favourites were the first and fifth variations, the former being quite longing yet hopeful in timbre, while the latter was fast-paced and lively. Bell’s fingers flew so fast on the violin that I could hardly see the motion, even on the big screen they had set up. One thing I really like about Bell’s performances is that you can really tell that he’s really passionate about music, and has all the talent, skill and hard work to pull off some of the most difficult pieces with seeming ease. You could probably measure his passion in the buckets of sweat he produces over the course of his performance – his hair was all nicely styled, but 20 minutes into the piece and his hair was completely soaked and flinging beads of sweat left and right. I think he moves a little too much for my liking (and probably for the surrounding musicians’ liking), but I guess it’s just proof of how much he enjoys what he does. As a fellow violinist, I’m left in awe.
The next performance I’ll be at is going to be Lang Lang and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which I have no doubt will be just as amazing as today’s concert. But a big congratulations to IU’s anniversary, and for blowing me away with their music! It was worth much, much more than the $10 I spent, and I’ll definitely keep coming back to Ravinia for more over the summer!