Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It Is Symphony Season, Again! Yay!

Our Sunday series of concerts started last Sunday. The feature work was the 1812 Overture by one of my favorite dead white guys: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I really like this work 'cause it starts in an almost pastoral manner with a theme played by the violas and cellos. And it ends with Napoleon and all the French getting smucked by church bells, organs, and cannons. Really cool. The cannons, in our concert hall (The Stevens Center), were synthesized by a massive sub woofer/amp firing cannon speakers. I'm not sure how the brass section survived, as they were right in front of the speakers.

The opening work was by von Weber: Jubel overture. The work was composed to celebrate some German King in 1818. It is very listenable and ends with the tune "God Save the King," or "My country 'tis of Thee," for you Yanks. It is a very fitting ending to the piece since all those 19th Century European Monarchs were related to each other anyway.

We also heard a new work, a premiere, if you will, by Dan Locklair, a live white composer, no less. The work is called Phoenix for Orchestra. I would buy a recording of this. It has antiphonal horns, melody, harmony, a commanding organ and lively parts for the orchestra. I whined about having to sit through another 21st Century piece of atonal, loud crap. What a pleasant surprise. I have sore ribs from Ms CPB elbowing me to remind me of my whining. What a great work, and our orchestra was up to it.

Sumdood playing the cello was the guest artist. I guess I do him an injustice. He is Zuill Bailey, a young cellist of note who has played with many large orchestras and in some prestigious halls. He couldn't have been better matched to the concerto he played: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in E Minor, op. 85 by Edward Elgar. E minor, Elgar, Romanticism, expressive instrument (cello), emoting soloist, all worked together. It was very enjoyable if I kept my eyes off of him and concentrated on the orchestra. As an encore, he played variations on "Yankee Doodle Dandy." He showed a lot of technique (as if I knew) and drew admiring looks from the rest of the cello section (especially the women). Forty years ago, one would have had to play variations on "Dixie."

Again folks, even if you have the best recordings by the best orchestras and soloists, the best playback electronics and the best speakers, it is not comparable to being there for the live concert. Live concerts bring the dead white male composers to life. For a small city orchestra, the Winston-Salem Symphony is superb. The musicians are drawn from the NC School of the Arts and from some of the other colleges in town. The director, Robert Moody, brings enthusiasm and energy to the whole program.

We will get Van Cliburn next month for the fundraiser, like we got Perlman last year. We have had Midori as soloist and will get Evelyn Glennie in the spring.

One last thought on live concerts: I know professional musicians have studied, worked, practiced and rehearsed for years. They love their craft/artistry and will play most anywhere, as long as they can play. But, damn, for people at work, they all look like they are having much too good of a time.

Support your local orchestra; you and they deserve it.

BRB is Write (and looking forward to Piano Concerto #1 by dead Russian and played by live Texan)

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