As part of the seven-month long I Am Quixote Festival, The Triangle Youth Philharmonic presented a program of works either inspired by or thematically related to the famous story of Don Quixote, the hapless knight-errant and titular character of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel. The El Quixote Festival, created by Rafael Osuba, is happening now in the Triangle area as well as throughout North Carolina. It is a collaborative celebration of both the story of El Quixote as well as the Spanish language and culture in general.

The TYP, conducted by Hugh Partridge, is the most advanced of the Philharmonic Association’s orchestral ensembles. These students produced an impressive array of repertoire, beginning with Telemann’s classic Don Quixote Suite. This strings-only suite contains programmatic sections that depict Don Quixote’s adventures, such as “Attack on the Windmills,” or “The Gallop of Rosinante and Sancho’s Donkey.” The well-known Overture sets the stage with stately cadences and the clearly interacting melodic lines of the high and low string instruments. Even with a stricter Baroque texture, the Philharmonic created well-phrased melodic motives throughout the suite. Telemann used specific musical elements to convey parts of Don Quixote’s adventures, such as many two-note phrases in “Sighs of Love for the Princess Dulcinea” that sound like literal sighs. “Attack on the Windmills” contains urgent scalar patterns both up and down, imitating the circular motion of the windmills.

Act III of Ludwig Minkus‘ ballet Don Quixote was next on the program, arranged by Jonathan McPhee. All other sections of the orchestra joined the strings onstage to play this expressive and dramatic work. Although telling the same story as Telemann, Minkus’ work implements elements of fantasy and romance to communicate the story. Within just one selected act, there is march-like texture, romantic melodies, a harp solo, humorous and playful moods, and grand cadences.

Bill Robinson‘s work Tilting at Windmills is a brand-new composition specifically commissioned for a world premiere at this festival and concert. This two-movement work, conducted by Assistant Conductor Rashad Hayward, is composed for the orchestra minus strings (or concert band), and is clearly based around the theme of Don Quixote. The first movement, “Dulcinea,” is more gentle and melodic, portraying Don Quixote’s perception of the peasant woman as a beautiful lady. Chromaticism and slightly atonal tendencies create colorful and unique harmonies throughout this movement. Movement II, “Sevilliana,” is inspired by the Spanish dance form of the same name. In comparison to the first movement, the second is definitely more dance-like, featuring the addition of four saxophones more prominently. Interacting melodic motives among the instruments are boisterous and somewhat restless, with a strong Spanish flavor.

The second half of the concert consisted of a performance of Tchiakovsky’s masterwork Symphony No. 5 in E minor. The four movements of this symphony are rather lengthy, and test the stamina of any musician – therefore, the caliber of the Philharmonic’s performance was very impressive. This symphony, although triumphant in general, also has many sudden mood changes, especially in the first movement. In the slow second movement, much of the melody lies in the hands of a French horn solo, which was done quite well. A more playful Waltz movement lies before the thunderous return of the main theme in the fourth movement, this time transformed to the major mode and brought to a bold finish.