Friday, January 21, 2011

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra--Power and Passion II--The Music

Last Saturday evening, I was invited to attend the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's second classical concert of the season.  I was so taken with the CSO's performance of Carmina Burana last fall that I jumped on the invitation, and I'm glad that I did. 

The first piece of the evening was Mahler's Symphony No. 5 - Fourth Movement - Adagietto.  We learned in the pre-concert lecture hosted by Katherine Caldwell that Mahler proposed to his wife by sending her the Adagietto.  Despite this romantic background, the Adagietto is typically associated with death and mourning as it is frequently played at funerals.  In fact, the Adagietto was conducted by Leonard Bernstein at the funeral mass for Bobby Kennedy held in St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1968.  A passionate piece indeed. 

When the orchestra started playing, I immediately noticed that Francis Wada, the CSO's music director and conductor, was not using a baton.  I recently went to a lecture that Francis gave about the history of conducting and learned that conductors use different batons--or no baton at all--for different types of compositions.  The intimate nature of the Adagietto lends itself to softer (albeit energetic) direction from the conductor, and it was a beautiful piece. 

The second piece of the evening was Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33, featuring guest cellist Boris Kogan.  The Rococo consists of a theme, seven variations and two cadenzas, with essentially no break for the cellist.  In the pre-concert interview with Kogan, he shared that his favorite variations are the slower, more expressive ones, saying that "everyone knows that the cello can sing, now it's time to teach it to talk."   I would be hard pressed to say which variation was my favorite. 

The final piece of the evening was Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73.  I don't know much about classical music, but I gather from the pre-concert lecture and the chatter among the audience that taking on Brahms is not for the weak of heart.  Again, the CSO rose to the challenge.   I particularly enjoyed the first movement, into which Brahms worked snippets of his famous lullaby.  Even knowing that the lullaby was coming, it still surprised me and made me smile. 

As I write this post, the CSO is playing with Barry Manilow during his tour through Southwest Florida.  They are in Tampa tonight, and a bus load of people from Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte took the trip up to see the concert and support their local symphony orchestra.   What a great opportunity for these musicians to try something different and to take their stuff on the road.  It's nice to have the CSO's skills and professionalism recognized by people outside of the community.  But it's even nicer to know that they have a home here.

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