Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Brings Us to Germany

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra is taking concertgoers on a whirlwind international tour this season.  Last Saturday night we made a stop in Germany, with music by Mendelssohn, Bach, and Brahms.  My friend Susan joined me for the concert, and it was a great evening.

We started our night with Katherine Caldwell's pre-concert lecture.  When the CSO has a guest performer, Katherine talks with them a bit before giving some insights into what we will be listening to that evening.   The CSO was performing on its own that evening, though, so she introduced us to Shannon Underwood (orchestra librarian), George Mancini (personnel manager), and Alan Klispie (stage manager).  It was interesting to hear a bit about the process behind the scenes of the concerts, from getting the musicians and music in place for the performances to making sure the stage is set for the show.  (As I listened to Mancini talk about sending contracts out to the musicians, I flashed back on the process of getting securities brokers under contract during my lawyer days at Prebon Yamane.  What a bunch of prima donnas those guys were!)   Then it was showtime!  

The CSO performed Mendelssohn's Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21 and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for the Organ, BMV 565 during the first half of the performance.  I enjoyed Bach's Toccata much more than Mendelssohn's Overture.   The Toccata, which is used in the introduction to Walt Disney's Fantasia, was bold and in my face.  I love the idea that Stokowski took Bach's organ composition and transcribed it into an orchestra work, with the contrabassoon's resonating sounds standing in for the organ.  The CSO embraced the music, and the violins were outstanding.  At the end of the piece, the violins were playing so fast that it reminded me of boxers working a speed bag.  Concertmaster Stewart Kitts was almost levitating above his seat.  As the Toccata came to its close, the audience gave a standing ovation in honor of the music that the CSO had created.

We were treated to Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 68 during the second half of the show.  It took Brahms over 14 years to compose his symphony, which consists of four movements.  Again, the violins were showcased, and Stewart Kitts' solos in the second movement were fantastic.  He was truly one with the music, and seemed not to open his eyes during the entire piece.  The fourth movement featured two pizzicato (plucking) sections on the strings, which I always enjoy, and the trombonists who were brought in especially for this performance finally got their opportunity to play.  Again, the audience rose to its feet in appreciation after the CSO had played its final note and Maestro Wada put down his baton.

I loved having the opportunity to introduce Susan to the CSO and Maestro Wada.   She was struck by the Maestro's warmth and connection with both the musicians and the audience.   I happened to watch CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood this week, and there was an interesting segment on charisma.  Of course the segment focused to some extent on politicians given the upcoming elections, but it also talked about charismatic people in other professions and the development by researchers at MIT of a "sociometer" to measure an individual's charisma.  As I watched the show, I thought about Maestro Wada's interactions the previous evening.  Before the concert began, he welcomed the concertgoers to that night's performance by "our" Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and shared that his birthday had fallen during the concert rehearsals and that he had been treated to an orchestral "happy birthday to you."  When he turned to the musicians, you could feel the bond that has developed between conductor and orchestra.  There is no doubt in my mind that if Francis were to wear a sociometer, his charisma rating would be off the chart.  It's just one more reason why Saturday night's performance was wunderbar!  


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