Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is known for playing without a conductor.

Courtesy photo

National attention focused on the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Thursday with the return of Orpheus, the acclaimed chamber orchestra, and the world’s first performance of Vijay Iyer’s “Asunder,” commissioned by Orpheus.

Iyer, better known as an outstanding figure in the jazz world, has begun writing some chamber works. He calls “Asunder” a composition with enough improvisation built-in to the work to make it different each time it was played.

“Asunder” was easily accessible, with not too much dissonance. The riffs and tempo patterns present in each section created an image of growing community. It was a uniting call to citizens whose ideas and attitudes are so split in today’s world.

Orpheus brought pianist Andre Watts, who performed the Mozart “Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271” with orchestra. Watts, veteran concert pianist for more than 50 years, continues to wow audiences, and his appearance with Orpheus in Lincoln was no exception.

Cohesion was prevalent in the warm, enticing Mozart work. Watts provided an excellent set of cadenzas and perfect balance with the orchestra. His performance glistened in the second-movement cadenza, a spectacular show of maturity.

Orpheus played the quintessential Beethoven “Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21” following intermission. Short phrases were splendidly stitched together in movement one. The second movement was sweet, and smiles on orchestra members' faces told us they were having fun with it.

The concluding adagio movement was full of slow, melodic phrases bending ever so slightly to win hearts and amuse patron ears. When bows came up at the work’s conclusion, patrons stood and offered strong, appreciative applause.

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