REVIEW: University Philharmonic Orchestra

What a night!

This was my first orchestra concert  experience since coming to the University of Michigan and I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed! Walking into Hill auditorium, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how beautiful the space was; the rows upon rows of red cushioned seats, the decorative work running across the ceiling, and  the massive organ glimmering beneath the lights along the back wall of the stage. I made sure to get to the auditorium early in order to get a good seat and I could tell as soon as I sat down that the acoustics in this space would be amazing. A stifled sneeze from someone on stage would be able to be heard as clear in the nosebleed sections as it would be in the front row.

The concert started out strong, opening with an excitingly fast paced rendition of Chad “Sir Wick” Hughes’  Visions of Renaissance. This piece was a whirlwind of sound from start to finish and Adrian Slywotzky conducted beautifully. But, what truly blew my mind was the second piece of the concert which was  Piano Concerto no. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, op. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninov. The piece was split into three movements and the star of these movements was Pianist, Sua Lee. Lee is a master pianist, having received multiple awards for her incredible talent on the ivory, the most recent being the 2021 Concerto Competition. I’ve never seen fingers move so fast across a piano as hers did that night. Lee shone on that stage while the orchestra provided a supporting role behind her. It was a beautiful call and response relationship that flowed and ebbed with a multitude of emotion. It was clear to  see how involved Lee was in the music. With every intake of breath, every fluid movement of her finger across the keys, the graceful way she leaned into the piano; she was mesmerizing to watch. The emotions she called to the stage ebbed into the audience as well, we were all captivated by her performance. As such, Lee received a standing ovation from the audience.

As wonderful as the concerto was however, I have to say that my favorite piece of the night was Symphony no. 6 in F Major, op. 68 by Beethoven. This was mostly due to the fact that I’m a big fan of the Disney film Fantasia which is a Disney classic and a must watch film if you haven’t seen it. Fantasia is made up of entire stories animated to some of the greatest classical music of all time. And Symphony no. 6 just happens to make up one of my favorite moments of Fantasia. I was able to relive the film live as I listened to the orchestra and I have to say, the orchestra was so superb that if I closed my eyes, I could almost believe I was listening to a recording of a professional group.

It was amazing to be able to witness such a talented orchestra!


Ruth is studying architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She enjoys reading, drawing, and singing when no one's around to hear her.

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