Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some Enchanted Evening, Compliments of the CSO

It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I had never heard of the famous composer/arranger/conductor Annunzio Paolo Mantovani until last year when Maestro Wada announced that the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra would be the first orchestra to perform a full concert of Mantovani's music other than the Mantovani Orchestra.  So, while I was looking forward to the concert, I honestly had no idea what to expect.  With each piece of information that the CSO released about the evening, I became more and more excited.   And I have to say that the "Best of Mantovani" brought out the best of the CSO and Maestro Wada, making it my favorite CSO concert to date.

As always, the evening began with Katherine Caldwell's pre-concert lecture, which focused on Mantovani's life and career.  It was particularly interesting to learn that when "Monty" decided to establish his own orchestra with its centerpiece of 28 strings, he wanted to create a "signature" sound for his music.   With the assistance of creative arranger Ronald Bilge, the "cascading" sound of the violins that you hear in many of his pieces (the first of which being Charmaine) was created. After telling the audience about Monty, Caldwell put the audience to a "name that tune" contest and told us a bit about the movies and plays that featured many of the songs from the evening's performance.   It was great fun and created a lot of anticipation for the music we would be hearing.  Then it was show time!!!

The program featured 20--count them, 20--songs spanning the scope of Mantovani's career.   The evening was a wonderful mixture of classical and pops music, and I'm frankly shocked that people were not dancing in the aisles (although, with the overcapacity crowd, that definitely would have been a fire hazard!)  The concert opened with Strauss' Overture to 'Die Federmaus' and Francis was practically waltzing as he conducted the piece.  We were off to a great start!  It's hard to say what my favorite pieces of the evening were.  I tried to take some notes during the concert but I was swept away by the music so they aren't as detailed as I might hope.  I scribbled that Till There Was You from the musical "The Music Man" was "stunningly beautiful" and that concertmaster Stewart Kitts was fantastic.   I loved the accordion throughout the evening, but particularly in As Time Goes By from "Casablanca."  Next to Hungarian Dance No. 5, all I've noted is that it was fabulous (really, does one need to say more?)  One of the most unexpected numbers was Cielita Lindo which, of course, provided the basis for the Frito Bandito jingle from days gone by.  The first half of the show closed with Seventy-Six Trombones (also from "Music Man'), and my friend Louise and I marched into the lobby to stretch our legs while the orchestra took its break.

My notes for the second half of the evening are even more sparse as I resorted to making large stars by my favorite songs.   (There is a virtual constellation on my program!)  The depth of the strings was amazing in Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody, and I would be highly remiss not to mention Alan Evans' performance on the trumpet throughout the evening, but particularly in More 'Mondo Cane'.    How could you not love Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets from "Damn Yankees" (even though the Maestro proclaimed that this was the one song he had not selected for the concert!) or the fabulous and romantic Besame Mucho 'Kiss Me'? And Some Enchanted Evening from "South Pacific" was, indeed, enchanting.

Fifty years ago Maestro Wada first heard Mantovani's records and fell in love with the recordings.  He shared with the audience that having the opportunity to conduct the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra playing Mantovani's music was truly beyond has dreams.  I, for one, am glad that the Maestro dreams big!   It was a magical evening, and I left the concert feeling not only thrilled for the Maestro, but also proud of "our" Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and amazed at the wonderfully high caliber of music we have in little Punta Gorda.   I can't wait to hear what's next!

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