Atmospheric melody: MSFO program to highlight student soloists in rousing performance of recognizable favorites


Music Director Timothy Muffitt conducts as the Music School Festival Orchestra performs on Monday July 5, 2021 in the Amphitheater. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

After spending every day with each other and now having put on three concerts, students of the Music School Festival Orchestra have formed strong bonds and have begun to understand each other as musicians and as people. 

At 8:15 p.m. Monday, July 12 in the Amphitheater, the MSFO’s concert will showcase these connections through their most exciting and biggest program yet. The program features well-known pieces that the audience will recognize almost immediately. 

The concert tonight will start off with a bang: the Amp will be filled with the familiar tunes of Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” Next on the program is a preview of The Marriage of Figaro with two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s arias. The program will continue with two other grand pieces: Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3.

“You can’t go wrong with any of these pieces,” said oboist and English horn player Mia Fasanello. “It’s a great program, one of the best. It’s the biggest and most exciting concert for all of us, I think. In terms of instrumental things it’s a great opportunity because it’s rare we get to play this many great pieces all in the same concert.”

The “William Tell Overture” highlights different sections of the MSFO that haven’t been featured yet this season. 

“This is a pretty cool concert because the cello section is heavily featured,” said cellist Rachel Rice. “It actually opens with this really cool cello solo. There’s a main cello soloist and a cello quartet that accompanies her.” 

Later on in the piece, an English horn, oboe and flute are featured. This solo is even more special as the two musicians involved — Fasanello, who will play both the oboe and English horn, and flutist Lauren Scanio — are longtime friends who grew up coming to Chautauqua, went to the same high school and are now both at the Juilliard School. 

“We know each other’s playing and can bounce ideas off of each other,” Scanio said. “The duet starts on the English horn and is repeated by the flute. Then in the second section, the horn has the underlying melody and the flute has this agile ablogato over the top of it. The challenge is still being able to pick out the melody, even though my part is fast and exciting. The mood is gentle and singing.”

Being able to perform this piece for the audience is something these players are looking forward to and they hope to share that excitement on tonight’s stage. 

“This is my first season in person, but not my first season coming to watch concerts,” Scanio said. “I watched concerts as a kid. It’s cool to be on the other side of it. … So many flutists have come through Chautauqua. It’s great to know you’re on a stage that a lot of your idols have been on.” 

I’m just really grateful to be back here and getting to play with everyone again. We get closer and closer in the orchestra everyday, and playing in an orchestra is my whole life — so to be able to do it again here is really special.”

– Mia Fasanello,
Oboist and English horn player,
Music School Festival Orchestra

Next in the program are two arias from The Marriage of Figaro, which will give the audience a preview of the MSFO and the Voice Program’s collaboration later in the summer. Tonight’s arias will also feature students from the Voice Program. 

“We have a 90-minute limit for our performances in the Amp because of COVID-19,” said music director and conductor Timothy Muffitt. “We couldn’t fit these two arias in the Figaro on (July 19). The students still get to sing it and the orchestra still gets to play it. It’s a way for us to get a little more out of the Figaro.”

“Appalachian Spring” is one of Copland’s most popular works, and it features the well-known folk melody “Simple Gifts” toward the end. 

“ ‘Appalachian Spring’ is one of my favorite pieces, especially the beginning and end,” Scanio said. “It’s so atmospheric and it always gets to me. I have to really check myself that I don’t get choked up when I play. It’s just so beautiful.”

Copland tends to include elements of folk and jazz in his pieces, and this piece in particular heavily features folk melody.

“It’s written as a ballet,” Muffitt said. “It’s the story of a Quaker community and a young couple that is to be married. It’s filled with folk melody. Typical of Copland’s really popular style, this is what most people know.”

This piece also has a special meaning to the MSFO students themselves; they’re grateful to be back on the stage creating music — its own “Simple Gift.”

“The ‘Simple Gifts’ melody is so fitting, as it’s really a gift to be back here this summer,” Fasanello said.

The program will end with a bang with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3. The audience will get to enjoy this unique piece, which is unlike his usual sprawling Romantic works. 

“This is as close as we get to a neoclassical piece,” Muffitt said. “It’s for a smaller orchestra. It’s a different style for him. It’s a style that works well with a medium-sized orchestra. We’re exploring Sibelius, for all his weirdness and glory. There’s a lot of glorious writing in his music. There are things that are not typical of what other late Romantic composers use (as) musical resources.”

The MSFO is looking forward to performing the action-packed program tonight. 

“It’s really exciting to watch the audience react to music they love,” Fasanello said. “Making them happy is the best feeling. I’m so excited to be sharing my own interpretation on it, especially on the English horn. I’m just really grateful to be back here and getting to play with everyone again. We get closer and closer in the orchestra everyday, and playing in an orchestra is my whole life — so to be able to do it again here is really special.”

Tags : english hornMSFOoboistsoloistThe Marriage of FigaroTimothy Muffittwilliam tell overture

The author Nichole Jiang

Nichole is a rising senior at Penn State University majoring in digital print journalism with a minor in Chinese. At PSU, Nichole served as a web writer for Valley Magazine and is currently an editor and writer for College Magazine. As a first-timer at Chautauqua, Nichole is excited to be working with the Daily and experiencing everything the area has to offer. Nichole loves going to the beach and trying out new recipes.