Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Maestro Raffaele Ponti Wraps First Season with CSO

Maestro Ponti and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concluded this season's repertoire with Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2."   I have to admit to a bit of apprehension about the choice. Hanson's credentials include serving as the director of the Eastman School for Music for over 40 years, but he's not exactly a household name.  And when I listened to parts of the work in advance, it didn't get my juices flowing.  It just goes to show how different an experience it can be to listen to music being performed live.

Hanson's Symphony No. 2 is also known as '"Romantic," and a more apt name could not be found. From its opening bars, the music was lush, and I envisioned crashing waves and lovers running towards one another across a beach.  As I sat enjoying the music, it made me think of the love affair that developed this season between Maestro Ponti and the CSO, on one hand, and the CSO's audience, on the other.

People are abuzz about the energy that Maestro Ponti has brought to the community and the musicianship he is extracting from his players.  For the first time ever, the CSO performed each of its concerts to a sold-out house.  It has been a wonderful season, with highlights too numerous to mention (but I'll give it a try!)

Maestro Ponti with artists
For me, of course, the collaboration between the Visual Arts Center and the CSO for Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" stands out.  Ten artists from the Visual Arts Center created beautiful works interpreting each of Mussorgsky's ten movements (which were themselves inspired by the artwork of Viktor Hartmann).  It was a true demonstration of the way in which, in the words of Maestro Ponti, "Art and music have influenced and catapulted each other throughout history."  As I listened to the CSO perform this amazing work, I envisioned the paintings the artists had created, an exercise that brought even more depth to the music.

Barbara Albin's "Sacred Subway" 
To add icing to the cake, at the "afterglow" party following the final concert, CSO Chairman Ken Barber presented Maestro Ponti with the painting created by Barbara Albin for "Pictures at an Exhibition."  Her work--entitled "Sacred Subway"--was inspired by the eighth movement, which is entitled "Catacombs."  Maestro Ponti was thrilled with his gift, quipping that being the subject of subway graffiti made him feel he had finally arrived.  (If you look closely, the graffiti in the painting includes "Pictures at an Exhibition...Mussorgksy... Raffaele Ponti.")

Jeffrey Biegel at play
The guest soloists this season were excellent.  Virtuoso pianist Jeffrey Beigel's rendition of Gershwin's original version of "Rhapsody in Blue" was wonderful.  I had the pleasure of talking with Biegel and hearing him play at a private event.  I was struck by the fact that Biegel was kind of an unassuming character until he sat down on the piano bench.  Then his fingers flew and his cheeks flushed with color as his passion became evident.

Robert Bonfiglio, guest harmonicist, introduced the CSO audience to something truly different:  the harmonica concerto.  The concerto was not my favorite music of the season, but I am all in favor of Maestro Ponti stretching the audience's musical ear--and I'm thrilled that the audience has been receptive to his approach.

I am already looking forward to the 2014-2015 season, which the Maestro unveiled at last Sunday's pre-concert lecture. The repertoire will include a combination of music by well-known composers and composers who don't get much air time on classical radio.  There will be a night of music from the Oscars.  There will be a night of music from the ballet and the flamenco. Marvin Stamm, former trumpet player with the Beatles, will be on hand for what promises to be an exuberant night of music.  Gerardo Perez Capdavila, a classical guitarist, will take the stage to perform a guitar concerto, an ear-opening experience in the making.  Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to hearing the CSO as the musicians continue to gel as a group and grow under the baton of Maestro Ponti.   I'm only sorry that we have to wait until November for our musical adventure to continue.

1 comment:

  1. This is truly a fantastic orchestra--and with a world class Maestro! I hope to have many more musical collaborations with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and wish them continued success!!


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