REVIEW: Berlin Philharmonic

It is a rare event when you get to see some of the world’s best musicians all on a stage together, directed by the very famous Simon Rattle. What was almost as special as this was the mere fact of how many people showed up to Hill Auditorium both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon to see the Berlin Phil. I know that classical music can sometimes be a tad old-fashioned or out of the interests of millennials, but it was incredibly encouraging to see the masses of people, all different ages and backgrounds, coming out to see the concert.

The performance started with a more contemporary piece called Éclat by Boulez. The piece contrasted a variety of instruments on stage, from mandolin to harpsichord. Every musician had to be incredibly attentive to one another, as their entrances came randomly and spaced out by an arbitrary number of rests. Additionally, the combination of instruments kept changing to showcase different mixtures voices. Though it was not my personal favorite, the piece offered a fascinating contrast to the following part of the program.

The next piece they played was Mahler’s 7th Symphony. I have long been biased towards Mahler’s work, always feeling incredibly in tune with his melodies and emotionally connected to the solos. One of the most impressive aspects of the Philharmonic’s performance was the woodwind solis, which usually consisted of the flute, oboe, and clarinet principals, as well as the second principals at times. These few musicians were perfectly connected in their musicality and phrasing, to the extent that their separate instrument timbres would melt into one another at the end of a phrase. This was such a treat to hear, being a clarinetist myself and always enjoying the beautiful bell tones of a leading clarinet player.

But of course, I have to also mention the conductor. Rattle was a very enthusiastic conductor, but not to the extent like some others such as Dudamel. His exuberance was more subtle and concentrated into his communication with the musicians. Most of all, you could tell how close the director and symphony had come, when at the end Rattle traveled through the orchestra and shook the hand of every principal musician. It was a very touching moment, and I believe the entire audience felt its impact.


Image by Kim Sinclair

by Kim Sinclair

PREVIEW: Berlin Philharmonic

When? Saturday, Nov 12 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, Nov 13 at 4:00 pm

Where? Hill Auditorium

How Much? Students: $20, General Admission: $50 – $185

Why? It has been 7 years since the Berlin Philharmonic last came to Ann Arbor, and it is the final US tour of the orchestra with their director Simon Rattle. They are performing some of the most spectacular pieces ever composed, including Mahler’s 7th Symphony and Brahms’ 2nd Symphony. It will be a couple days you do not want to miss.

Image by Sebastian Haenel

by Kim Sinclair

REVIEW: Ah, Wilderness!

Boy do I never get tired of seeing our amazing School of Music, Theatre, and Dance students perform. In the first play of the 2016-2017 year, they sure did not disappoint. This one was one of Eugene O’Neill’s more lighthearted plays, which meant not every character was terminally sad and there were a good number of jokes, but it also came with moments of sincerity and serious undertones.

The play revolved around a young boy named Richard who had just been rejected by his love, Muriel. This results in Richard galavanting off with one of his older brother’s friends and an older woman at a bar, where he becomes drunk and gets kicked out by the barkeep. He later finds out he had been deceived by Muriel’s father, and Muriel did indeed still love him. They meet to apologize and Richard explains what he had done. Everyone ends up surprisingly happy, which seems like a rare thing to come by in an O’Neill play.

Throughout the play, Richard’s father, Nat Miller, plays a strong role as a classic American father. He wants his son to become the best he can be, but is hesitant to punish him as he personally does not like having to punish his children. Some of the most touching moments in the play were when Nat would try to discipline his son or have a serious conversation about life, but ended up getting embarrassed and leaving Richard confused. There was obvious chemistry between the two actors that truly resembled a genuine father-son relationship and made watching the two grow through story even more touching.


I would say the most impressive part of this performance was the cast’s ability to perform the subtle humor of the play. Not all of the jokes were outright funny, but had more nuance to them, and the cast portrayed this nuance perfectly. The cast even executed the more boisterous humor, like uncle Sid coming home drunk, incredibly well in all of its absurdity.

Finally, the set design was extraordinary. The women’s garb was exactly out of the 1900s, with the collared dresses and big waisted skirts. The men as well were iconic, with goggled sunglasses and boater hats. The bar scene was quintessential, and the home decor at the Miller residence set the mood for a suburban American family at the turn of the century. These little details made the story easier to follow, putting the radical thoughts of Richard Miller in perspective with the rest of the world at that time.

All in all, this was a very touching coming-of-age story, filled with many classic family brawls and a beautiful romantic scene under the moonlight. The actors did a spectacular job of portraying a close family going through daily life, and bringing the audience into this little slice of life O’Neill wrote a century ago.


REVIEW: Mark Morris Dance Group

The Mark Morris Dance Group performance was certainly a new experience for me. I have never been to such a mixed arts event in the past. Walking in, before the first people came on stage, before even the lights began to dim, you are immediately aware of the art of the performance because of the backdrop of the stage. There is this brilliant painting that sets the background for the entire performance, consisting of what appears to be large brush strokes sweeping across the canvas. The entire painting consists of only 3 colors, but as the lighting changes on stage, the painting changes colors as well. This sets the mood for the performance, as the rest of the dancers come out dressed in similarly bright colors.

At the beginning of the performance, a group of 4 musicians come on stage and perform a short piece that also begins immersing the audience into the world of Layla and Majnun. The music is accompanied by English captions above the stage, translating the story being told by the two singers in the group. Immediately, from the key of the music and the poetic quotations being presented in the captions, the audience gets a feeling for the tragic nature of this story.

Then, the entire music ensemble walks on stage. As the musicians begin playing, the dancers start to walk out two at a time. All of the female dancers are dressed in these brilliant pink flowing dresses, and the men are dressed in bright blue. This choice of colors perfectly contrasted the men from the women, as well as made the aesthetic of the stage come together beautifully with the painting in the backdrop. This can be seen in the image below, taken by Susana Miller.

Photo by Susana Miller

Throughout the performance, one is entranced by the beautiful singing of Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, seated directly in the middle of the stage and surrounded by the music ensemble. They demonstrated an incredible control over their vocal range and ability to express such deep emotion in their voices. I do have to say I was biased towards focusing on the musicians more than the dancers, since my training is in music, not dance. This also meant I was new to the style of dance the Mark Morris group utilized. It was predominantly lyrical, trying to showcase the tragedy of this love story through the movements of the body. However, this also meant there was not a focus on showcasing skill, so the performance was much more centered on telling the story of Layla and Majnun rather than exhibiting the dancers. In this way, the choreography often included simple physical movements that demonstrated love and loss, repeated by each male/female pair in the dance group.

Overall, I fell in love with the beautiful colors of the stage and the voices of the singers and the talents of the musicians, but I found myself unable to stay focused on the dancers. My eyes kept drifting back to watch Alim and Fargana perform extraordinary cadenzas effortlessly. I would love to see the Mark Morris Dance Group perform in a more dance-central piece, but I was not able to experience the character and skill of the group in this performance.

by Kim Sinclair

PREVIEW: Ah, Wilderness!


When: Friday Oct. 14 at 8:00 pm, Saturday October 15 at 8:00 pm, Sunday October 16 at 2:00 pm

Where: Arthur Miller Theatre

How Much: $12 student tickets, $28 general admission

Come see the Department of Theatre and Drama perform a wildly funny performance of Ah, Wilderness!, written by Eugene O’Neill. The play is a coming-of-age story filled family values and romance. It’s bound to be a good show!

by Kim Sinclair

PREVIEW: Mark Morris Dance Group

What? A performance of Layla and Majnun by the Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by UMS

Where? Power Center for the Performing Arts

When? Thursday October 13 at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday October 14 and 15 at 8:00 pm

How much? Starting from $30

Why? The Mark Morris Dance Group is one of the most well-known dance companies in the world, and this September is their world premier of Layla and Majnun, a tragic and beautiful Persian love story. It is a performance not to be missed.


by Kim Sinclair