Part Bewitched, Part Enlightened, 100% Moved

A review of Samuel Jones Vita Accademica, and Brahms Violin Concerto No. 3
at Seattle Symphony
by Tavis H.

Now a days, with programs like Limewire and websites like, there is seldom a piece of music that one wants to pay for. However, once in a while we truly find a fleeting moment of musical brilliance ensnared by staff and shared in timelessness; something so tremendous that by the end of it we feel part bewitched, part enlightened, and 100% moved.

Very little pieces have such an effect on me; for example, Beethoven’s 7th, Phillip Glass’s 5th, and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, are some of those powerhouses; for me they can cut through all defenses and seize me at the purest level of my emotional core. These rare beauteous pieces of great power and emotion are comparable to a fine dinner; its contents are masterfully prepared and when experienced, all ranges of emotions are released. Is this the type of meal we run off on without paying? Are we talking about the Red Robin of music; some mediocre chow house made for the ever so beloved dine and dash? No! For this is a form of art that you do not merely pick up from the internet on a Wednesday night as the active afterthought of tangential procrastination! No, this is a spectacular creation that I am talking of, something that is so precious that one should feel cheap and immoral if they dared to scrounge and thieve without penitence or recourse.

On Sunday I witnessed such a moment. Brahms will be Brahms; he’s great and will continue to be. But the wondrous beauty that I speak of resonated from the droll enchantment and captivating measures of Samuel Jones’s latest piece, Vita Academica, a Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra. Commissioned by Charles and Benita Staadecker, for their 25th anniversary, the piece is about Charles’ college days at Cornell. It tells the tale of his arrival, meeting his wife to be, falling in love, studying, and even a drunken football game. With the trombone playing as Charles, and other orchestra members portraying different people and emotions, the synchronization was precise and perfect in its ratio; like a fine watch, the instruments and movements intertwined perfectly to weave this beautiful tapestry of music. It may have started out as a portrait of a man, but it ultimately exceeded beyond its intentions and transformed into an extraordinary example, and staple of, the modern repertoire.

With it’s melodious and heart melting moments to it’s glorious uplifting power, it is like Wagner had a brain child with Mozart; no, that’s nearly an insult; for what Samuel Jones has created is so beautifully original and refreshing to the modern scene that comparisons lack and juxtapositions die. He has defined, utilized, and controlled, a uniqueness and tonal individuality that has averted a world of modern music that is full of weak muses and failed inspirations.

The other performance that was, in my eyes inferior to Jones but equally, worthy of fiscal respect was the Brahms. Vadim Repin shined; unequivocally magnificent. He brought a emotionally resonant flame to his performance that made the Violin Concerto No. 3 look like it was tailored by Brahms for Repin’s sleek and handsome Russian passion. He is truly a virtuoso when it comes to the mastery of the violin and made the instrument look easier that slicing through soft butter; smooth, elegant, with little resistance, and careful precision. Ultimately the totality of the orchestra and Repin perfectly captivated the haunting joy and grace of Brahms.

Kahlil Gibran once stated that “beauty is a light in the heart.” When I reflect upon that Sunday afternoon, and think of that quote, I am stunned, for I know now that I have witnessed such a beauty. From Jones pouring his heart and joy into his concerto, to Repin whose “heart light” shined through his fingers, a fantastic masterpiece was born, and another perpetuated.

Samuel Jones Vita Accademica, and Brahms Violin Concerto No. 3.
played at Benaroya Hall as part of Seattle Symphony's season on April 5th, 2009
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