The orchestra accompanies John Vonell, '18, from Moravian College, the featured student piano soloist, during the LU Philharmonic concert on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Baker Hall at Zoellner Arts Center. The concert was conducted by Eugene Albulescu and featured 10 student soloists on Friday and Saturday. (Vincent Liu/B&W Staff)

Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra features 10 soloists in annual Concerto Marathon

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The Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra had its annual Concerto Marathon on Friday and Saturday in Baker Hall. It included concertos preformed by 10 soloists from the orchestra as well as the music of Star Wars and Spartacus.

A concerto is a musical composition to be played by a soloist accompanied by an orchestra, and it’s a rare opportunity to be able to play one.

“If I didn’t go to Lehigh I probably wouldn’t have been able to play a concerto again,” oboist Thomas Wolfgang, ’18, said.

Violinist Michelle Fedun, ’17, said one of the things she appreciates most about the Lehigh orchestra is that it gives students the opportunity to play a concerto every year. She said it is an opportunity for members of the orchestra to play their best pieces. 

The Concerto Marathon is open to juniors and seniors in the orchestra if they are willing to put the work into a piece. These soloists have been working on their concertos for months, some for over a year.

Fedun said students pick their own pieces with some guidance from the faculty based on their knowledge and what the orchestra can play.

Eugene Albulescu has been the director of the Lehigh Philharmonic for 10 years and has been running the Concerto Marathon for nine. It was originally a competition, but Albulescu changed that after his first year.

“When you do it as a competition, only one student gets a chance to play with the orchestra and everyone else ends up being upset,” Albulescu said. “Why don’t we showcase everyone that can play a concerto movement? It’s a pretty exhausting situation to try and get all this music ready.”

The soloists have to learn their concertos in addition to the other music they are supposed to know. The orchestra has to know the accompaniments for all 10 concertos as well as the music from Star Wars and Spartacus.

“It does get me stressed out, but I feel like it’s the time of the year where I’m most in touch with my musician side,” Fedun said.

The students that compose the orchestra are multifaceted. Flutist Kaitlyn Ruffing, ’17, is the only music major of the 10 soloists. She is double majoring in biology and music and participates on the track and swim teams. Wolfgang is a computer engineering student, and Fedun is studying environmental engineering.

“It’s not what I plan to do for my career, it’s my passion,” Wolfgang said. “I always plan to have music in my life in some way.”

The show started with the first five concertos, and after intermission, the orchestra played Spartacus and Star Wars.

Albulescu said he had the idea for the orchestra to perform Spartacus for awhile.

The concert master, Michael Jorgensen suggested Star Wars as a pair to Spartacus because they are both very popular movies.

Albulescu has seen every Star Wars movie in theaters since “A New Hope” came out when he was 7 years old. He calls the Star Wars series “multi-generational.”

Albulescu said hearing the music by a live orchestra is a better experience than hearing it in a movie theater because of the sense of human energy that doesn’t come through on movie theater speakers. 

All of the soloists thanked the orchestra for doing so much to pull these concertos together, learning 12 pieces of music for this concert. Fedun also thanked the community members who “come out and struggle to find parking every Wednesday night” as well as the people backstage.

The Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing another concert on the April 28 and 29. They will perform Holst: The Planets.

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