Sound of Charlotte Blog


Four pieces are on the program for this first weekend in April. Read more to learn about these selections!


 The first performance of Prélude à "L'après-midi d'un faune" took place in Paris at the Salle d'Harcourt on December 22, 1894, with Gustave Doret conducting the Société Nationale de Musique.
The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on February 15, 1949 with Lamar Stringfield conducting at Armory Auditorium. The fourteenth and most recent performance set took place on November 11, 13, 14, 2010 with Christopher Warren-Green conducting on the campuses of Central Piedmont Community College, University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University.

According to Pierre Boulez: "modern music was awakened by L'après-midi d'un faune." Other pioneering works, such as Ludwig van Beethoven's Eroica Symphony (1803), Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco (1842), and Igor Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps (1913) stunned the music world with their overwhelming power, energy and dissonance. Debussy, on the other hand, chose to wake his listeners in a far more seductive and beguiling fashion, with elusive tonalities and rhythms couched in the most exquisite orchestral sonorities.

Debussy's most famous orchestral work was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé's poem, the genesis of which dates as far back as 1865. L'après-midi d'un faunerelates the tale of a faun's erotic (and unrequited) fascination with a pair of nymphs. Mallarmé conceived The Afternoon of a Faun as a monologue to be recited on stage by an actor.

Debussy described his Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun" as "a very free interpretation of Mallarmé's poem. It has no pretensions of presenting a synthesis of the poem. It is rather a series of scenes against which the desires and dreams of the Faun are seen to stir in the afternoon heat." In an October 10, 1896 letter to music critic Henri Gauthier-Villars, Debussy observed:
More precisely, the work conveys the general impression of the follows the ascendant movement of the poem and illustrates the scene marvelously described in the text. The close is a prolongation of the last line:
"Couple adieu! Je vais voir l'ombre que tu deviens." ("Farewell, couple! I go to see the shadow that you have become.")

The first performance of the G-Major Piano Concerto took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on January 14, 1932, with Marguerite Long as soloist, and the composer conducting the Lamoureux Orchestra.
The first performance set of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on March 22-23, 1972 with Jacques Brourman conducting at Ovens Auditorium and Wingate University. The sixth and most recent performance took place on May 4, 2012 with Christopher Warren-Green conducting at the Knight Theater.

In an interview, Ravel acknowledged that the jazz he enjoyed in the United States influenced the G-major Concerto. "What is being written today without the influence of jazz?", Ravel queried. "It is not the only influence, however; in the concerto one also finds bass accompaniments from the time of Bach, a melody that recalls Mozart, the Mozart of the Clarinet Quintet, which by the way is the most beautiful piece he wrote." Of course, the success of the G-major Concerto is the product of Ravel's remarkable ability to synthesize these various and potentially disparate influences into an engaging, unified and individual work.

The Concerto in G Major is in three movements. The first movement(Allegramente) opens with the soloist accompanying a vivacious piccolo melody, apparently based upon a Basque folk tune. Ravel introduces several additional themes, notably a descending blues passage. The inspiration for the Concerto's slow second movement (Adagio assai) was its counterpart in Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, K. 581 (1789). The virtuoso finale (Presto) is the Concerto's most overtly jazz-influenced movement.

The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on February 28, 1956 with James Christian Pfohl conducting at Ovens Auditorium.
The fifth and most recent performance took place on January 25, 2013 with Jacomo Bairos conducting at the Knight Theater.

The Pavane, one of the most popular works by French composer Gabriel Fauré, exists in two versions. Fauré originally composed the piece in a purely orchestral version. Later, at the request of his patroness, the Countess Elisabeth Greffulhe, Fauré created another version of the Pavane for orchestra and chorus.
The pavane originated in the 16th and 17th centuries as a tranquil court dance, usually in duple meter. The plucked strings that accompany the famous central melody in the Fauré Pavane might serve to evoke a lute from those earlier times. The introduction and varied reprise of the haunting melody frame a more turbulent central episode. Throughout, the Fauré Pavane is notable for its lyricism and rich, transparent orchestration.

The first performance of La mer took place in Paris at the Concerts Lamoureux on October 15, 1905, with Camille Chevillard conducting.

The first performances of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on November 1 & 2, 1972 with Jacques Brourman conducting at Ovens Auditorium and PfeifferCollege. The fifth and most recent performance set of this work took place on March 21 & 22, 2003 with Christof Perick conducting in the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing ArtsCenter.

The first mention of Claude Debussy's Impressionist masterpiece, La mer, occurs in a September 12, 1903 letter. Debussy informed composer André Messager: "I am working on three symphonic sketches under the title La mer: Mer belle aux Iles Sanguinaires; Jeux de vagues; and Le Vent fait danser la mer." (Debussy later changed the titles of the outer movements.)

The premiere of La mer took place in Paris on October 15, 1905 at the Concerts Lamoureux, with Camille Chevillard conducting. While critical reaction varied, most recognized the importance of La mer in the development of French musical expression. Debussy himself penned revisions to the score in 1909, although some conductors and orchestras continue to perform the 1905 version. Regardless, Debussy's La mer is a brilliant musical product of the composer's lifelong fascination with the sea and its infinite mysteries. Debussy's La mer, like its subject, continues to elude description, all the while exerting a powerful attraction.

La mer is in three movements. The first, De l'aube à midi sur la mer (From Dawn until Noon on the Sea), journeys from a slow, mysterious introduction to the grand concluding section, depicting the magnificence of the sea, glistening in the noonday sun. The second movement, Jeux de vagues (Play of the Waves) serves as La mer's vibrant scherzo. The final movement, Dialogue du vent et de la mer (Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea), opens in ominous fashion, but culminates in a powerful resolution.

Program notes by Ken Meltzer.


After losing funding for field trips to arts performances three years ago, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools partnered with the Arts & Science Council to not only reinstate them but provide a more complete experience.

In seven waves this week, more than 11,000 fifth-graders will attend "Endless Possibilities," an event with the Charlotte Symphony, Opera Carolina and North Carolina Dance Theatre. The program features music and dance chosen to stimulate 10- and 11-year-olds and is accompanied by curriculum addressing this performance.

More than 51,000 students will participate in field trips, including third-graders and middle schoolers, at a cost of $338,000, mostly funded by ASC. Wells Fargo, Ulysses Festival, UNC Charlotte and CMS also contributed for the fifth-grade trips.

When the schools and ASC formed a partnership to bring field trips back, they wanted students to get more from the experience than a memory of whatever the arts groups chose to present usually something from their current season. The partnership outlined what artistic material was appropriate for fifth-graders and reached out to the opera, symphony and dance company.

What they came up with was Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" arranged with a Latin beat, accompanying four couples dancing a salsa; Mozart's "The Magic Flute," the Queen of the Night aria and the duet between Papageno and Papagena; the first movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, played with a rock, Latin and hip-hop beat; and in dance, Alonzo King's "Chants;" "Warehouse Medicine," a piece by Mason Bates for DJ and orchestra; and the overture to Bernstein's "Candide."

Students learn about the composers, musicians, choreographers and dancers before they see the show. On Tuesday, their familiarity and enthusiasm was evident as they joined Charlotte Symphony Guest Conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos in chanting "Johann Sebastian Bach" and "Ludwig van Beethoven."

The effort to make this traditional yet innovative program happen was immense. Aside from the 18 months of planning, the partnership formation, Wells Fargo's donation, the arts organizations performing at cost (rather than charging $4 per student), 40 school buses were required to transport 1,700 people to each of the seven performances.

The curriculum continues after the performances with journal activities. Students will be able to design their own costumes for Papageno or write a tweet about the event. The partnership expects benefits to continually reveal themselves for years to come.

Judging by the number of kids perched on the edge of their seats mimicking Bairos' baton pattern with their hands, Charlotte can look forward to a flood of conductors.

Source The Charlotte Observer 

1333This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.
Read the full story here.


Two pieces are on the program for this weekend. Read more to learn about these selections!

JOHANNES BRAHMS Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra

The first performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto took place at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany, on January 1, 1879, with Joseph Joachim as soloist and the composer conducting.
The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on April 10, 1947 with J. Albert Fracht conducting at Armory Auditorium. The thirteenth and most recent performance took place on February 2 & 3, 2007 with Christof Perick conducting at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Brahms created the Violin Concerto for his dear friend, the Austro-Hungarian virtuoso violinist, composer and conductor, Joseph Joachim.  On December 12, just a few weeks before the anticipated New Year's Day premiere, Brahms wrote to Joachim: "I send you the part herewith and agree to your alterations. The orchestral parts will be ready for Jan. 1st in case you play it in Leipzig. If so, I will meet you in Berlin a few days before..." Despite the minimal amount of remaining preparation time, Joachim agreed to give the premiere as scheduled. He also composed the first-movement cadenza that, to this day, remains the preferred version among soloists.

The world premiere, conducted by Brahms, was far from an unqualified triumph. Perhaps the audience was confused by the unusual prominence of the orchestra, which traditionally played a decidedly subservient role in violin concertos. Brahms's unconventional approach prompted conductor Joseph Hellmesberger to dub the work a concerto "not for, but against the violin." Violinist Bronislaw Huberman took a somewhat different view, stating that the Brahms Concerto was "for violin against orchestra--and the violin wins!"

In time, Brahms' D-Major has secured its place as one of the greatest violin concertos, a veritable Mt.Everest of technical and interpretive challenges. As with many of Brahms's finest works, it is also a brilliant and immensely satisfying synthesis of Classical form and Romantic passion.

The first performance of the Fifth Symphony took place in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) on November 21, 1937, with Evgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic.
The first performances of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on October 16 & 17, 1968 with Jacques Brourman conducting at Ovens Auditorium and in Gastonia, NC. The sixth and most recent performance set took place on February 8 & 9, 2008 with Stefan Sanderling conducting at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

On January 22, 1934, the first performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk took place in Leningrad. Lady Macbeth, a work Shostakovich described as a "tragedy-satire," lampoons the decadence of capitalism as personified by the kulaks--comparatively wealthy peasants who resisted Soviet collectivization. Joseph Stalin, the tyrannical Secretary General of the Communist party, walked out of the theater before the conclusion of a performance of Lady Macbeth. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in the official Communist newspaper, Pravda, entitled "Muddle Instead of Music." Although the author of the article was not identified, it appears certain it was either written by Stalin, or penned under his direction and approval. The author dismissed Lady Macbeth as a "stream of deliberately discordant sounds...Lady Macbeth enjoys great success with the bourgeois audience abroad."

Shostakovich withdrew his Fourth Symphony, a work he feared might inspire the same negative government reaction as Lady Macbeth. In the spring of 1937, Shostakovich turned his attentions to the Fifth Symphony. A seemingly penitent Shostakovich offered the following subtitle for the work: "A Soviet Artist's Practical Creative Reply to Just Criticism."

The 1937 premiere, conducted by the composer's longtime friend and advocate Evgeny Mravinsky, was a resounding success. The Fifth Symphony pleased the Soviet critics, and soon, the world at large. It appeared that Shostakovich had succeeded in creating a work that managed both to glorify the Soviet regime and appeal to international audiences.

In 1979, four years after the composer's death, Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, stunned the music world. The Shostakovich who emerged from this book was far different from the one who had seemed to follow the Communist party line. For the Shostakovich of Testimony, the Fifth Symphony was hardly a paean to Communism:
I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in (Modest Mussorgsky's opera) Boris Godunov. It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, "Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing," and you rise, shaky and go marching off, muttering, "Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing."
What kind of apotheosis is that? You have to be a complete oaf not to hear that. People who came to the premiere of the Fifth in the best of moods wept. 

Shostakovich's friend and student, Solomon Volkov, compiled Testimony from what he claimed were the composer's own words. Many, including, not surprisingly, the Soviet government, questioned the authenticity of Testimony. The controversy continues to this day, although as time has progressed, many of Shostakovich's friends and family members have acknowledged that Testimonyexpresses the composer's real feelings.

Program notes by Ken Meltzer.

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Christof Perick, Christopher Warren-Green, Classical, History.