By Steven Brown | 11/3/2012 | Charlotte Observer
Reblogged from Charlotte Observer
Everyone else can think about falling back this weekend. The Charlotte Symphony, despite the end of daylight saving time, is busy springing forward through Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 1.
That's also known as the "Spring" Symphony, of course. Thanks to the orchestra, it's living up to its nickname, in both senses of the word.
The orchestra sprang through it Friday night. With Christof Perick, the group's former leader, back on the podium, the orchestra was crisp, clear and agile. It filled the opening movement with bounding energy. It flung out the scherzo's buoyantly rhythmic chords. It breezed through the finale's jauntiness and byplay.
As for spring, the season: Its sunshine arrived with the brasses' gleam in the very first phrases. The woodwinds' warmth in an array of lyrical sections enhanced it. The strings contributed to it through the coziness they gave the slow movement, which wasn't really that slow. The way it flowed along, its peaceful melody could've been blooming before everyone's ears.
With the motion that ran through the whole symphony, Perick and the orchestra could have been looking forward to Schumann's Symphony No. 3, which salutes a great European river the Rhine. Instead, they moved on after intermission to a river farther east: the Moldau, the subject of Bedrich Smetana's beloved tone poem.
The qualities that made the orchestra so appealing in the "Spring" Symphony were just as winning in "The Moldau" and "From Bohemia's Meadows and Forests," another of Smetana's portraits of his homeland.
"The Moldau" started quietly, but that didn't mean it started small: The flutes and clarinets blended silkily in the purling theme that sets the river in motion. The little wedding dance was airy and cheerful. The strings made the moonlight scene glisten and when the trombones and tuba entered with their theme underneath, they added fullness and depth without breaking the mood. That took skill and control.
Speaking of finesse: There were further generous helpings of it in the way the woodwinds sang out their big tune in "From Bohemia's Meadows and Forests." Opening up like a full-through chorus, they were full, smooth and well-blended. Those used to be qualities they hardly ever displayed. But they're commanding them more and more often a welcome development.
After Smetana's booming final chords, Perick and the orchestra added an encore: one of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances. It was just as jubilant as Smetana had been. Perick and the group especially savored its quick changes between gusto and grace.
The orchestra played lustily in the stormy spots of the concert's opener, Carl Maria von Weber's Overture to "Der Freischutz." The group dug into the exuberant finish, too. But the opening, meant to evoke the mystery and supernatural that drive the plot of Weber's opera, didn't quite take hold. The orchestra, with its modest-size string section, didn't command the dark-hued sound that would've created the mood. The group manages to summon such tones once in a while, as in Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite earlier this month. But for the players to do it dependably is a development that has yet to come. Until there are more players, it probably can't come.
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