Two impressive concertos featured in the NDSO’s spring concert

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra [NDSO], Notre Dame’s premiere orchestra composed of students and faculty, hosts 3-5 concerts per year. On Friday, March 3, NDSO hosted its first concert of the semester in the Marie P. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

“Pines and Piano,” the NDSO’s most recent concert, featured two spectacular solos amid pieces by Wagner, Chopin, Reicha, and of course, Respighi’s Pines of Rome. The orchestra typically plays music from the 18th-21st centuries, but one unique aspect of this spring’s concert was the addition of a concerto solo, played by the winner of the annual NDSO Concerto Competition held during the fall semester. Senior Alex Kaup, an electrical engineering major, played the solo in Reicha’s clarinet concerto.

Kaup, who has played in the orchestra since his freshman year, described that any “non-freshman is able to do [the concerto competition] … there’s maybe about 10 people that do … So that’s typically where a lot more of the actual music majors will do more of the competing.” This year, Kaup chose a piece that did not have a music score readily available. Kaup transcribed the piece from photographs of the autograph manuscript, taken by a Notre Dame French graduate student. 

Kaup described the transcription process, saying it took “maybe 20 [hours] … But then there was a specific recording I had heard, somebody had recreated that score … so they had some flourishes I wanted to add.” 

As someone who has been heavily involved in music at Notre Dame, Kaup felt grateful to be able to perform this solo in his last year, even with all the work that went into the performance. Reflecting on his time with the NDSO, he said “I am just so impressed at the level of the group. That’s what strikes me because it’s such a small percentage of music majors, meeting once a week. But I think it’s the combination of a lot of talent at this university … In addition, our director is one of the best I’ve ever had, and the music he picks is even better. It’s been a pleasure playing under him. He’s made the group really what it is.”

The second solo was Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1, played by James Bennett, a sophomore majoring in music and economics. While Bennett confessed that he is “actually not in the orchestra,” he said of his performance, “I really enjoy playing for [the NDSO] because they always tend to have bigger audiences because people invite their friends and family if they’re close by, while it’s harder to get an audience for individual recitals.” 

While the audience won’t see him in the next NDSO concert, Bennett has been playing since he was six years old, and he plans to continue making music a part of his future. He told the Rover, “I really like the performative aspect of it, but usually people who want to be professional musicians have to do a lot of competitions, which I don’t like as much … I’m thinking about possibly teaching, or composing … there’s a lot I can do with it.” Bennett shared that presenting his piece in the NDSO concert was a great experience, and he hopes that in “playing for others, I hope they can find some joy in the music as well.”

Nicole Lopez, a classical music enthusiast and frequent attendant of NDSO concerts expressed to the Rover how much she enjoyed the performance: “It’s amazing that we can go for free because of the talent of the orchestra … some of them are definitely good enough to be professionals.” 

Regarding classical music in general, Lopez described that her “favorite thing about it is that anyone can listen to it and feel something different … it’s a unique experience. Even though I’ve been to so many [concerts],  each time [I go] there’s just nothing like listening to the live music.” 

Even for audience members that aren’t too familiar with classical music, Lopez described the appeal of these concerts, saying, “It makes you forget about your daily activities or takes your thought to a deeper level … if it can take me out of my present time, if it can take me out of thinking about projects, then it’s doing what it’s supposed to.”

If you have yet to experience an NDSO concert, be sure to mark your calendars for April 21st, 8:30 pm for NDSO’s performance of Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia and Holst’s The Planets.

Maria Murinova is a sophomore Program of Liberal Studies & pre-health major, interested in books, music, natural medicine, and swing dancing. Feel free to reach out to her at

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