A Merry Special Concert – the 10th anniversary of the Freies StudentenOrchester Rostock

December 10th at 19:15, the annual Christmas concert of the FSOR – the Freies StudentenOrchester Rostock – is about to start in 15 minutes. The audience is waiting in line outside of the Nikolaikirche in Rostock, the concert is s officially sold out, but still some hopeful concert-goers are trying to get one of the spare tickets left at the box office. Unofficial rumors say there are twelve tickets left. Inside of the church there is a line as well. Some musicians are queuing to visit the restroom one last time before they go on stage. Some students are braiding each other’s hair, fixing their ties and tuning their instruments. It is humming like a beehive and the excitement is almost palpable. .

While the audience enters and take their seats, the almost 80 musicians wish each other luck and the conductor Robin Portune, together with Tassilo Müller-Graff, the leader of the orchestra, are giving a short pep talk. It feels a little like big family on Christmas Eve waiting to open their presents. And the unpacking begins when the first musicians enter the stage in a specific order determined by their instrument. . Thus this may seem organized to the audience, but this logical progression had been quickly put together by Tassilo and Robin at the last minute – unlike the other preparations which took place for this concert.

Leaving aside the tremendous hours of practice, of the orchestra and also every member in it, , there was a lot to do before this show. The stage had to be transported and put up, some instruments had to be carried around and the two big screens, which make sure that you can see the orchestra from every seat, had to be installed and the cameras positioned. For this anniversary concert some special measures have been taken. It is supposed to be extraordinary, a celebration of the music and the orchestra itself.

When all seats have been taken and the instruments are tuned, the actual concert starts when Robin Portune enters the stage and lifts his baton. Robin , as well as most of the orchestra members, is a student at the University of Rostock. At the Hochschule für Musik und Theater he is studying orchestra conducting under the well-known Professor Christfried Göckeritz. But when Robin Portune on stage, he is in his element and you cannot tell that he still is a student and when the first soft sounds of the ouverture Romeo and Juliet from Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski sound, a mystical atmosphere overcomes the audience. Soon the tone gets more aggressive, thinking back to the story of Romeo and Juliet and the feud between their families you can imagine how the Capulets and the Montagues threat each other. Interrupted by the motif of love, the overture concludes with a majestic fanfare of the brass.

After a roaring applause , a tall young man gets up from his chair where he leaves his viola and steps up to the microphone, it is Jan-Torben Witte, one of the board members of the orchestra. Together with another board member Franziska Bennöhr he gives an overview of the orchestras’ history, which began in 2005. A few students of the university decided to meet and make classical music together, shortly after they formed together as an association. From then on the orchestra grew from 20 to more than 80 members. With the time not only some members of the orchestra finished their studies and left Rostock, but also the conductors changed. But with the changing conductors also the standard of the music changed, every new impulse raised their level of expertise.

In remembrance of the past years the alumni were invited to join the orchestra during the next piece of music, also written by Tschaikowski. The Nutcracker is a ballet based on a story of E. T. A. Hoffmann about a little girl Klara, who enters a magical world on Christmas Eve. The Ouverture miniature gives the audience a first glimpse at this wonderful world. While the second part is a journey, starting off with a rhythmical march of the toy soldiers, and followed by the tender dance of the sugar fairy. Soon we hear a passionate Russian folk-dance, an elegant Arabic dance the Danse chinoise as well as the Danse des Mirlitons, which refer to Chinese and French sweets. In the end Klara and the nutcracker dance together in the third and most famous part of the suite, the Valse de fleurs.

After an applause that is a treat and relief for the musicians the next part of the concert begins, it is the 20-minute break in which they get to chat with their friends and family. During this time the audience can get an impression of the past 10 years of the orchestra. The church has been decorated with pictures of the orchestra throughout the years and a presentation of what the members of this year’s orchestra are like. As a special highlight, gingerbread hearts are sold with the lettering FSOR on it.

Now it is time to make room for a composer who lived during the same time but in another country. The Czech Antonin Leopold Dvořák travelled a lot during his life not only to European countries but also to the United States, where he composed his 9th symphony From the new World. It is one of the best known of all his symphonies; ne recording of it even made it to the moon with Neil Armstrong.

When the FSOR started playing the audience gets to travel with the music from bohemian Traditionals, to Native American music towards the sounds of the new world. It is hard to describe all the wonderful elements of this symphony and I can just say: Listen to it and you know what I mean. The orchestra shows a marvelous performance and especially the hornists shine with their part. And the breathtaking applause with standing ovations that follows those sounds is an impressive award for the energy and the enthusiasm of the orchestra.

Tradition has it that the audience gets sent home with a song at the end of every concert of the Freies StudentenOrchester Rostock. This year the light are dimmed and every musician holds a candle in their hand while they sing Tausend Sterne sind ein Dom. While this very special Christmas concert comes to an end you can see happy faces, not only in the audience, but also in the orchestra.

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