I’ve cringed in the past when people question the safety of center city Philadelphia when deciding whether or not to go to a concert, but the tables were turned Saturday night. Would I be safe going to a concert in Camden by myself? Rest assured, the answer was a resounding “yes!”. The concert was held in Gordon Theater in the Fine Arts Center on the Rutgers Camden campus. Plenty of free (yes free!), parking was available across the street, and the presence of security personnel and concert goers added to the safety factor.
The hall had comfortable theater style seating and great sight lines due to the fairly steep slope of the floor. As I settled in, I noticed a number of familiar faces of students that I know who attend the Curtis Institute of Music. The orchestra is comprised primarily of musicians who are in the early stages of their careers. According to Symphony in C’s website, it “is one of three professional training orchestras in the United States preparing musicians and conductors who are on the cusp of world-class careers through concert, educational outreach and professional development programs.” The stage was bristling with microphones because a professional recording was going to be made of Paul Moravec’s “Violin Concerto” featuring Maria Bachmann on violin. So here was an immediate example of a real-world experience that these young professionals would encounter. According to one of the students, in addition to the live recording, an additional three hour recording session was scheduled the next day. Professional recordings can require long hours and tedious sessions, so gaining that experience could be valuable for the career decisions about to be made by these young musicians.
The concert, lead by music director, Rossen Milanov, began with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream in E Major”. Fifty five musicians were listed in the program notes so I’m not sure if that made it a small regular orchestra or a large chamber orchestra. No matter the designation, the orchestra’s spirited performance in a theater smaller than a concert hall produced plenty of sonic power.
Maria Bachmann, took the stage next to play “Violin Concerto” which was written for her by composer, Paul Moravec. Attendance in the theater was good and it favored the senior side of the spectrum so I was curious about their reaction to a contemporary work. The orchestra immediately demonstrated that it was equally adept at playing contemporary music as the more famous classics. Many cities in other parts of the country would be thrilled to have an orchestra of this caliber as their leading classical organization. After a respectful pause for the sake of the recording, the audience replied enthusiastically and some stood to welcome Moravec when he appeared on stage while Bachmann made her curtain call.
Symphony in C fittingly performed a Symphony in C following the intermission. In fact, the program notes highlighted the fact that the entire symphony by Robert Schumann was in C and only varied between major and minor between the movements. The musicians filled the hall with a very energetic performance that surely lifted the spirits of all who were there.
Conversations between audience members indicated that many knew each other. In fact, the orchestra, formally known as the Haddonfield Symphony is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. The warm greetings and hugs from Interim President, Pamela Brant, as we exited the hall confirmed that this organization has deep roots with dedicated patrons and supporters.
One final note of thanks for including an updated page listing the musicians who performed in the concert. I’ve been surprised to find that this is not a more common practice.
Disclaimer: This article is an observation from the viewpoint of a “regular member” of the audience, not a critical review.