April 1, 2016 (WPVI) --The Curtis Institute of Music is one of the nation's top music conservatories. Students attend tuition-free but only the most elite musicians are admitted, and a few times a year, the school's symphony orchestra puts on a concert to showcase their talents.
"Every Curtis concert has a major orchestral piece that's going to bring down the house," says percussion instructor Don Liuzzi, and for this, the final concert of the season, it's Edgard Varese's' Amerique, a piece inspired by the sounds of New York City in the early 20th century.
"Varse is taking you in the heart of the city where you feel like you're on the subway with all of the screeches and halts and starts and stops," says Liuzzi, who describes the work as the French composer's tribute to his newly adopted homeland, "any sound, any construction site, any traffic jam, it was fair game for music."
There's an expanded orchestra, "one of the largest percussion sections ever asked for in a Western orchestral piece," says Liuzzi, and it's full of sound effects, from the roar of a lion to a police siren.
"These were literally what they were using on old fire trucks back in the day," says Liuzzi.
And while the centerpiece of the concert evokes the sounds of the city, the orchestra will also perform a pastoral piece by fellow French composer Claude Debussy. "Imagine the life of an afternoon of a fawn," says Liuzzi, "so you couldn't be more different as far as the countryside compared to the life of the city."
The concert ends with a Brahms symphony. The conductor is Curtis alum Michael Stern, who's now music director of the Kansas City Symphony
"He's very fun. He's very clear. He's got a very good big beat," says Liuzzi, who says the final concert of the season can be very emotional for the students.
"A number of those kids on stage will be graduating at the end of this year so this will be their final orchestra concert, and that's a big deal."
The Curtis Symphony Orchestra performs Sunday evening, April 17th in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall. For tickets go to www.TheArtsinPhilly.org.