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Artist-in-Residence Greg Sandow weighs in on UMD performance of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony.

By Greg Sandow, Arts Journal Blogs
My last post was about terrific things at the University of Maryland, creative hard work done to attract a younger, livelier audience to concerts by the student orchestra.

It’s worth repeating what they did. The strategy, as I’d summarize it — find the places where orchestral players most naturally meet other students. In their dorms (fraternities and sororities, too?), and in classes, especially music classes. And then make sure to talk to students at those places, launch a campaign to interest people in going to the concerts.

Which seems to have worked! The same strategy could, in principle, be adopted anywhere.

But the concert I went to last Friday — where I saw the larger audience — was fabulous, and I want to say more about that. Here’s the program:

  • Beethoven, Pastoral Symphony


  • Leon Kirchner, The Forbidden

  • Bartok, Miraculous Mandarin suite

Not an easy program. The Kirchner piece, in an atonal idiom the students mostly wouldn’t be familiar with, is also very nervous, jumping from idea to idea, with each idea shaped unpredictably. But the players handled all that quite well. You’d know it was a student orchestra, but clearly a very fine one.

One thing that made Kirchner easier was its orchestration — fairly routine, for the most part, with strings foremost at almost every moment, and all the instruments used (to my ear) quite conventionally. Which I’d think gave the students one less obstacle.