Music lovers, Galesburg residents and Knox students alike congregated at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Galesburg for the Saturday concert by the Knox-Galesburg Symphony. The symphony was conducted by Spanish native and founder of the Chamber Orchestra of the Emporda, Carles Coll. The symphony performed Puigsoliu by Catalonian composer Joaquim Serra, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto Opus 35 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter.
The concert began with the national anthem. This was followed by the Puigsoliu, a soaring work evocative of the geography and cities of Catalonia. Coll’s specialty is adapting orchestral pieces by Catalonian composers. He conducted the Puigsoliu and the entire concert with great gusto, pointing directly at musicians and moving about frenetically. The audience applauded appreciatively at the end of the piece.
For the second piece, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, the symphony was joined by Spanish solo violinist, Eva León. Taiwanese violinist Huei Chiang had originally been scheduled to accompany the symphony. However, she was unable to attend and so León took her place.
León spoke about how she came to play with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony.
“I am very good friends with the regular conductor [Knox Professor Bruce Polay]. He called me in New York; I was just recently playing Mendelssohn in Mexico. This is my second time playing with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony,” she said.
Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is widely considered to be one of the most difficult of violin compositions to play. That said, León, with the solid backing of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, performed the work with the highest level of virtuosic skill.
The difficulty of the piece was readily apparent as León began to play, the complexities of the violin part rising above the drama of the orchestra. Midway through the concerto, however, it became clear that something was amiss. On a brief rest in the solo section, León spun quickly to her right and traded violins with the concertmaster (Louise Polay). León proceeded to play the rest of the movement with the borrowed violin.
During the pause between the second and third movement, León and Polay traded violins again so that León could retune. Polay said of León’s violin, “Yes, playing that violin is ever so nice.” At the end of the piece the audience gave a standing ovation and Coll kissed the hands of both León and Polay.
When interviewed during the intermission, León talked about the violin swap.
“It was definitely unusual. I just had to exchange my violin with the concertmaster. One of my strings was out of tune. These things just happen, and the thing to do is just to find a solution,” she said.
Polay also spoke about the violin exchange. “If there is a solo violinist, the standard rule if the violin goes out of tune is to trade with concertmaster, who tries to get the violin back into tune. All of a sudden it went [off tune], and she looked at me, and I looked at her, and on a rest we traded off,” he said.
The second half of the concert was Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter. At the conclusion of the concert the audience applauded warmly. Speaking about playing with the symphony, León said, “It’s always a pleasure to be here. The audience is always very warm and nice, and the orchestra is very welcoming.”
Speaking about working with León, Polay said, “She is the most gracious soloist. She’s totally prepared. She was also very helpful. The conductor [Coll] speaks no English, and so she helped as an interpreter.”