From the very first moments of the Oberlin Orchestra’s first concert of the new school year until its final close, clarity emanated from the orchestra and the audience was treated to a delightful and enthusiastic performance. Raphael Jiménez, the conductor, presented a program last Saturday night at Finney Chapel which consisted of Frederick Delius’ Violin Concerto (1916), featuring the world-renown violinist and Oberlin professor, Gregory Fulkerson, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F Minor.
Fulkerson captivated the room with Delius’ Violin Concerto, in fact at points, the eminent violinist commanded so much attention that the orchestra and Jimenez appeared to be nothing more than the backdrop to a fantastical world in which the warm heart-wrenching melodies pierced the audience. This is not to say that either the orchestra or Jiménez were absent. Rather, the orchestra constructed a texture much too vivid to be a dream, but far too surreal for reality. The thematic motifs in Delius’ work are phrases of utmost pleasure; they are playful, methodical, and consistent, but most importantly, Fulkerson brought them to life with somber melody basking underneath joyous glow, and the audience at Finney Chapel reaped the benefits.
And yet, Delius’ Violin Concerto was so much more than a pleasurable experience. It is not just that Fulkerson expressed the emotions which most of us cannot express, nor is it just that the listener was not only the subject of affection but also the lustful observer. The magic was there because the romance only ephemerally existed in a world which the Violin Concerto inhabited, a world created by the Oberlin Orchestra, with Jiménez as conductor, and with Fulkerson as soloist. As the performance progressed the world expanded and dissipated — but will not come into existence again.
After intermission, the Orchestra continued with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. While the piece wasn’t flawless and didn’t create the expansive illustrious experience that the orchestra made accessible in Delius’s piece, it too was an absolute joy. The third movement of Tchaikovsky’s fourth was a wonderfully comical Scherzo which presented great contrast to the powerful sounds of the fate motif explored throughout the symphony. This theme was brilliantly put in the program notes which said that “fate awakens us… and thus, all life is the ceaseless alternation of bitter reality with evanescent visions.” The entire genius with which the orchestra played in Tchaikovsky’s symphony was not lost on the majority of the hall. Each movement of the symphony ended deserving of praise, and none more so than the final movement. The music was born of life with motifs of fate, hope, and power.