Plenty of relatives and friends of student musicians were on hand in the Beasley-Curtis Auditorium of Memorial Hall for the final spring concert of the University of North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. Music Director Tonu Kalam led them in an eclectic program of works by Steve Reich (b. 1936), Georges Bizet (1838-75) and Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904). Kalam fields one of the largest student orchestras in the state.

A brief work, “Duet” (1994), by pioneering minimalist composer Reich opened the concert. Reich describes the work as “approximately five minutes in length. It is scored for two solo violins and a small group of violas, celli, and bass. … The music is built around simple unison canons between the two violins who, from time to time, slightly vary the rhythmic distance between their two voices.” All this above the droning of the low strings.

The effective soloists were concertmaster Vivek Menon and principal second violinist Courtney Cash. The low strings consisted of 8 violas, 6 cellists, and 2 basses. The soloists played with great precision and superb intonation. Kalam conjured the attractive tapestry of sonic textures very effectively.

The rest of the orchestra’s players filled the stage for the next work, Suite No. 2 from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne. Bizet composed 27 pieces as incidental music for Alphonse Daudet’s play of the same name. Suite No. 1 was selected by the composer while the four selections of Suite No. 2 were arranged after Bizet’s death by Ernest Guiraud, the controversial composer of recitatives for the 1875 Vienna production of Carmen. The movements are Pastorale, Intermezzo, Menuetto (drawn from Bizet’s 1866 opera La Folie Fille de Perth), and Farandole.

Kalam secured solid performances from every section of the orchestra. They blended well, from the swaggering, full portions for full ensemble to quieter sections that featured considerable delicacy and precision from the strings. A highlight was the lovely solo duet between flutist Katherine Gora Combs and harpist Grace Monteleone that dominated Menuetto before they were joined by saxophonist Rebecca Williams. Other sections featured, besides Combs’ flute, fine solos from oboist Jack Livingston, principal horn Nick Konz, and the bright piccolo of Abby Jean Bergman. There was plenty of rhythmic vitality in the showy Farandole.

I never miss a chance to attend performances of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 in D, Op. 60 (1880). It makes a welcome change from so many repeats of Symphony No. 9, “The New World” and is arguably the composer’s first full mastery of the symphonic form. The No. 6 is in four movements and makes frequent use of rhythms from Czech folksongs. The third movement, Scherzo (Furiant): Presto, is outstanding with its combination of cross-rhythms and forward momentum.

Kalam led a vivid and stylish performance that brought out color, warmth, and vitality of this score. Strings produced full, rich tones, woodwinds were strongly characterized while the brass played with brilliance and discipline. Among the many important woodwind solos were those by flutist Megan Golliher, oboist Livingston, bassoonist Skye Satz, and clarinetist Andrew Huang. Co-principal horn Jack Perisch contributed polished solos.