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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Observer: Perick enjoys freelancer’s life — at least for a while

By Steven Brown | 11/1/2012 | Charlotte Observer
Reblogged from Charlotte Observer Critical Mass

It's lucky that Christof Perick had a nonstop flight from Germany to Charlotte. Otherwise, Mother Nature might've gotten in his way for the second time -- which would've been particularly ungrateful of her this week,  since the music he'll conduct with the Charlotte Symphony is a celebration of nature's power and beauty.

A volcanic eruption in April 2010 blasted a dust cloud over Europe that kept Perick from conducting his last concerts as the orchestra's music director. But he circumvented Sandy on Monday. So he's back for a three-week U.S. visit. It will not only return him to the Charlotte podium he occupied for nine seasons, but offer him other reminiscences of his work on this side of the Atlantic -- or, as he put it Tuesday, his "28-year history of conducting in this wonderful country."

He plans visit friends in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- all cities where he has conducted prominently -- and close with the San Diego Symphony, which he has guest-conducted repeatedly over 20-plus years. (A Perick travel tip: If you ever travel from L.A. to San Diego, go by train. The ride offers spectacular views of the coast.)

But first: The Charlotte Symphony concerts this weekend may offer some reminiscences of their own. They'll start with Carl Maria von Weber's Overture to "Der Freischutz," an opera that received full-length, concert-style performances from Perick and the orchestra in 2003. Next will come the "Spring" Symphony, Schumann's exuberant hymn to nature's annual rebirth. To cap things off, two of Bedrich Smetana's portraits of his native Bohemia: the beloved "The Moldau" and the less-famous but equally catchy "From Bohemia's Forests and Meadows."

Perick hadn't yet gotten in front of the orchestra Tuesday morning. But he credited his successor, Christopher Warren-Green, for the fact that the orchestra is financially "safer" -- quickly rapping his knuckles on a wooden table in the Charlotte Symphony's office -- than it was during Perick's time.
"I think it's probably because Christopher is living here," Perick said. He thinks Warren-Green's presence in Charlotte, promoting the orchestra around town, is "very important. I think it's very good. I was always saying that -- the orchestra needs someone who is (visible) at the arena, across the street."
"I couldn't do that," Perick, who's based in Germany, added. "I didn't have the time to do that. In that regard, I'm not a good American music director. Because you need that talent and that outgoing personality to do all those things (in the community) convincingly."

But Perick takes pride in cultivating the Charlotte Symphony's  style and precision -- something Warren-Green has complimented  from his own perspective. Perick points to similar work back home in Germany, where he last year finished a stint as music director of the Nuremberg State Theater. Zeroing in on a cycle of Mozart operas with the company's singers -- such as the vibrant Heidi Meier, who also made a couple of visits to Charlotte -- was a highlight, he said.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Christof Perick, Christopher Warren-Green, Classical, Schumann, Smetana, The Moldau.

Onstage Seating at Firebird!

This Friday and Saturday, you can experience the Charlotte Symphony in a whole new way. We will offer a limited number of seats situated on risers behind the orchestra on the Belk Theater stage. Tickets for Firebird! are only $29 (or $14 for students and young people 25 and under.)
Last season, we offered onstage seating for Beethoven's Fifth and Jenni Lough Watson posted this on our Facebook page...

"This past Friday night, I, along with my Medical Alert Service Dog, Duse had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend ON STAGE the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's Performance of Beethoven. I was astounded to see the turnout for Beethoven. In today's economy, we cannot afford to lose sight of the arts. The arts are what keep us grounded, and guided, and "guilty" of communicating all things non verbal. These are the bridges that will take us where we need to be in the future.

As a musician, one typically relates a performance to the quality of acoustics which support the accuracy presented in a piece. In my nearly 25 years of performing, the acoustics in the Blumenthal Theatre were some of the best I have experienced. Being on stage was like a personal reinvention of my musical career as a young trumpet player I felt as if I were actually a part of the piece, only with a much more in-depth perspective. There were times throughout the performance that I wondered, given the intertwining of sounds and visual stimuli; "Had the audience blended with the orchestra to the point of inseparable measure?" I believe that the opportunity I had to sit on stage with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has given me a piece of my career I may never have experienced before.

As a Canine Behavior Consultant, I enjoy learning about the origin of value. How are life experiences valued? How can we improve upon the value of today to ensure our success for tomorrow? Through the years I have learned that the origin of value in canine behavior has its share of parallels to the origin of value in music. Non verbal communications have a history of adding value to life; truth is these value-factors originate from mere interpretations most of which are interpreted at face value. Body language is essential for face value interpretations, and the opportunity to watch Christopher Warren-Green's facial expressions made my interpretation of the music even more valuable to experience. You could literally see his teamwork approach to conducting the group leadership at its best!

From the on-stage perspective, you could tell where the "guts" of the orchestra were originating throughout the music and the audience's reaction to these musical elevations.  I must add an additional experience that I simply was not expecting. Back stage, there were vibrations of communication, and they were not what you would expect from a Symphonic Orchestra. The genuine care and compassion of the musicians awaiting their entrance on stage shined through as they greeted us just off the stairs. Vibrations of mingled discussions regarding dogs being on stage filled the air off stage.

It was obvious to me if you take the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at face value they genuinely care about the community they serve. Personally, the whole experience both on and off stage gave us cold chills from our heads to our 'tails.'"

Call 704.972.2000 to purchase onstage tickets to Firebird! featuring Borodin Prince Igor Overture, Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, and Stravinsky Firebird Suite. Christopher Warren-Green conducts. Calin Lupanu solos on violin.
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as calin lupanu, Christopher Warren-Green, firebird, onstage seating, Stravinsky.

Violins of Hope Bring Powerful Message to Charlotte Schoolkids

Originally Posted: April 2012

This month Charlotte has the great honor of hosting the North American premiere of an exhibit of the Violins of Hope. Twenty years ago, Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein began collecting and repairing violins that once belonged to Jewish musicians killed in the Holocaust. His aim was to restore these violins and hear them played again,  restoring the memory of the nameless millions, including the musicians and artists who were lost. Thus was born Violins of Hope.

Eighteen of these instruments are in Charlotte through April 24 on display at the UNC Charlotte Center City Campus. There are numerous events connected to the exhibit taking place throughout Charlotte, including several performances this week featuring CSO players. The project will culminate with the performance, Triumph of Hope: Violins of Hope with the Charlotte Symphony, conducted by CSO music director Christopher Warren-Green and featuring master violinists Shlomo Mintz, Cihat Askin and David Russell.

A special component of the project is a series of in-school performances given by Charlotte Symphony musicians. Two ensembles comprised of professional CSO musicians will perform 14 concerts at local middle and high schools. These programs are made possible in part by a generous donation from Eva and Robert Stark.

Students will learn about Jewish culture and the horrors of the Holocaust through the music of the era. The repertoire features a mix of traditional Jewish and Klezmer music; forbidden music considered "degenerate" by the Nazis; music composed in the concentration camps; and music that evokes survival and healing after the Holocaust. Each concert also includes narration and projected images that explore pre-World War II Jewish culture; the Third Reich's attempt to control art and culture; the role of music and musicians in the concentration camps; and how the European Jewish community refused to be silenced and perservered after the war.

 It is important that students study the Holocaust in school as a way to learn about these unbelievably horrific events from our history and to preserve the memory of those who perished as a result. Seeing a live musical performance such as this is one way to help deepen this understanding. Using this knowledge they can help prevent the repetition of similar events in the future.

With a project such as the Violins of Hope, music helps us learn, and music helps us heal.
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Tagged as Amnon Weinstein, Christopher Warren-Green, Cihat Askin, CMS, Culture, David Russell, Education, History, Holocaust, Preservation, Shlomo Mintz, Violins of Hope, World Class City.

Two special nights

Originally Posted : November 2011

As a volunteer chorus, the members of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte put in a lot of hours rehearsing for concerts. We work hard at it. We do it, of course, because we love it and because we get something out of it. In exchange for the time we spend driving to and from rehearsals and the actual hours spent in rehearsal, we get to sing some of the finest music ever composed. We work with world-class conductors. We meet interesting people who share our love for music. We sing with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

It's a fair trade.

Mozart's Requiem dress rehearsal

And then, sometimes we get a night where the conductor, the symphony, the chorus and the soloists are all in sync, the house is full, and the audience is engaged. When that happens, the experience can be magical. Of all the arts, music alone, I think, has that singular ability to so collectively elevate the human spirit.

I think we experienced that twice this past weekend.

At the post-concert talk after Saturday night's performance of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and Requiem, a member of the audience noted that she had been attending concerts that featured the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte for about 15 years. She wanted to know why we sounded so much better in this performance than she had ever heard before.

Scott Allen Jarrett,  Director of Choruses and Assistant Conductor of the Charlotte Symphony, primarily credited our musical growth to the commitment of the Charlotte Symphony to the Oratorio Singers and to its ongoing commitment to the choral repertoire.  (He was right, though his own commitment to Oratorio Singers should have been included as well.) We are, in fact, larger in number than in recent years (about 150-strong), and I do think our quality is on the rise. One aspect of that quality is having enough mastery of the material to be able to respond to the spirit of the moment--and of course, the direction of the conductor--during a live performance.

Oratorio Director Scott Allen Jarrett during the dress rehearsal

Christopher Warren-Green obviously has the musical standards, knowledge and sensibilities one would expect from a conductor of his pedigree. He also makes himself available to moments of inspiration on stage. One could argue that this is in fact the essence of a live performance, but not all conductors allow themselves the same level of expressive freedom. Warren-Green does. And for a chorus that has sung only a couple times under his direction, this can be a scary notion.

It can be a bit nervy for the conductor as well. Getting an orchestra to perform with four soloists and a large chorus requires a lot of trust on his part. Trust that wherever he leads, they will have not only the technical ability, but also the musical instincts to follow. I think Christopher Warren-Green trusts his orchestra. Soloists can be a tricky proposition, especially when much of their performance is ensemble singing, as it is in the Requiem. Soloists are, by definition, individualistic. (That's not a knock. It's who they are.)

And then there is the chorus. If the conductor doesn't trust the chorus, he will reign in his musical muse in order to preserve the integrity of the music. The result is a competent concert, but not a transcendent one. So within our preparation for a concert, we don't just learn the music as indicated in the score. Scott Allen Jarrett has us practice different endings to movements, different tempos and dynamics, different interpretations of key passages, even different ways to produce vowels. By the time rehearsals began with the orchestra last Tuesday, we had developed the confidence to not only sing well, but to deliver what Maestro Warren-Green was asking of us. And if he wanted to try something else, we could produce that as well.

So this past week weekend, the result was two great concerts. The soloists did marvelously, the orchestra did its usual excellent job, and I think the chorus gave Maestro Warren-Green enough confidence to follow his muse without having to worry about whether we were going to come along. The house was full, and the audience each night was both engaged and receptive to the music. The result? Two special nights enjoyed as much by those of us in the chorus as by those in the audience.

The Oratorio Singers of Charlotte
 Photos by John Graham ©
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Christopher Warren-Green, Mozart, Oratorio, scott allen jarrett.

A Cellist’s Life, by Dorothy Cole

Originally Posted: April 2011

I didn't want to wear a tutu or a tiara.  As a five-year-old my dream was to play the cello.  This cello enchantment all started the first time I saw a cello in the home of my silver-haired Seattle neighbor, a retired Seattle Symphony cellist and the first woman member of that orchestra.  I was at once smitten by the cello's dark graceful shape and its warm voice.  A few years later we started instrumental music at my school and were given the opportunity to pick any instrument which we would like to play.   No question: cello for me!  I came home one day and discovered my wish granted; there was a cello waiting for me.
Later as a teenager I joined the Seattle Youth Symphony, and my inspiration exploded.   The more I studied and played, the more I wanted to study and play.   My next big step was to go on to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Soon I was performing with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and later the Greensboro Symphony, playing chamber music, and teaching lessons.  

In 1977 I won an audition with the Charlotte Symphony, and since then this symphony has been my career, and Charlotte has become my home. If I had to name one high point in all of my Charlotte years, it would be the performance in the spring of 1986 when I was principal cello and the concerts featured Alicia de Larrocha in Brahms's Second Piano Concerto, which is largely a duet for piano and solo cello.   I was honored and thrilled. There have been so many wonderful concerts throughout my years with the Symphony but I think this season, my 34th, is best of all. I am enjoying every concert with our new conductor, Christopher Warren-Green.  

I will always be a cellist, and the Charlotte Symphony will forever feel like my orchestra, my musical family. Now I am silver-haired and proudly ready to retire. What next?   Retirement will give me more time to spend with my grown son and daughter and my two grandsons. It will also give me time for making pottery.  If you happen to be going to the airport, you can see some of my work in the pottery exhibit on Concourse A.

 CSO Cellist Dorothy Cole will retire at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
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Tagged as brahms, Christopher Warren-Green, CSO Musicians, family.

Who IS the greatest composer?

Originally Posted : January 2011

Classical music critic Anthony Tommasini has got something crazy up his sleeve over at The New York Times. The blogger's newest idea for a story is so daunting and controversial, its consequences could be catastrophic. It has the potential to, in fact, upset classical music aficionados worldwide.
Tommasini has recently announced that he is on a mission to name the 10 greatest composers of Western classical music. Anti-climactic? Hardly! At the end of the day, there must be a Number One to end every countdown. To construct a list leading up to the number one composer of Western classical music -- now that is no easy feat.

Think about it. Is this even possible? Is the winner chosen based on the number of works they composed? Which is more revered pioneering a new style, or being the master of an older one? Does Beethoven get extra points because he was deaf? Or is Mozart boosted to the front because of his child-prodigy status? Then there's the issue of varying types of composition. For instance, how does one compare Wagner's opera to the oratorio of Handel... and then determine the better composer?
Well Mr. Tommasini, I fully support your decision to compile this list. After all, everyone has a favorite piece by a favorite composer what's better than taking the time to really think about why that piece is special, and what it is about that composer that makes him/her stand above the rest? Exploring why you are passionate about something and coming to its defense can make you appreciate it even more.
Now before I make this bold statement, please keep in mind the following: I do not have a PhD in music. I am not a world-renowned conductor, composer, or performer. I hardly know enough about classical music to serve as a critic, or write a book on the subject. I do, however, have fond memories of listening to public radio on long car rides with my father as a child. I am a senior in an undergraduate music program, and survived a grueling year of the most feared course sequence in the curriculum music history.

Based on these things, and my own personal opinion, I must say that my vote for Number One is Ludwig van Beethoven.

Let me begin by saying that I admire Beethoven's unwavering passion for music. Beethoven stayed true to himself, composing music the way he saw fit, and never relinquishing artistic control to patrons or audiences. Music came from his heart and from his personal experiences. He experienced periods of both extreme darkness and triumph. I don't just hear music when I listen to Beethoven, I hear his soul; it's as if the composer is interwoven into every melodic line musical phrase. When I say this I don't mean to take away from the god-like status he has been promoted to over the centuries, but I understand Beethoven on a more personal level. Human to human, we relate.

Like many other great composers, Beethoven altered the course of music history. His radical and revolutionary composition techniques aided in ushering in the Romantic Period. Beethoven broke from and expanded traditional musical forms, expanded instrumentation, and pushed performers of his music to the brink. He also had a knack for taking a theme and hiding it in a piece for the listener to experience again and again. Beethoven's harmonic explorations keep audiences on the edge of their seats, and I for one particularly enjoy the unpredictable nature of his symphonies.

In fact, I will now take this moment to be completely cliché and acknowledge that my favorite Beethoven work is Symphony No. 9. Hey, it's one of classical music's greats for a reason! From the fiery first movement to the recitative of the cellos and basses that introduces the "Ode to Joy" theme in the low strings I love every second of it.

I place Beethoven at the top for his innovativeness, passion, and ability (in my opinion) to have an impact on every composer that followed him. Who is your Beethoven? Who is it that, at the drop of a hat, you are able to say, "Now that is Western classical music's greatest composer of all time!"? Join the debate. Write to me at intern1@charlottesymphony.org and let me know who you think should get that number one spot. After the Charlotte symphony music director reviews the responses, the winner will receive two tickets to a CSO concert of his or her choice and a backstage pass to meet Christopher Warren-Green! Deadline is January 20.

And don't forget to follow Tommasini's countdown on his ArtsBeat blog at http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/.

Liz Weger has come to Charlotte from Westerville, Ohio to serve as the Charlotte Symphony's newest intern. A senior at Otterbein University, Liz is a music and public relations major. With a vocal concentration, Liz studies voice privately and is a member of the Otterbein Concert Choir Otterbein's most select vocal ensemble. She recently accompanied the choir on its tour to China, where students participated in joint-concerts with university students in Beijing, Tianjin, and Xi'an. In 2009, Liz was the education intern at ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, and served on the orchestra's student advisory board. Hoping to soon have a career in arts administration, Liz is thrilled to have the opportunity to experience the arts scene of Charlotte.
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Tagged as anthony tommasini, Christopher Warren-Green, countdown, greatest composer, handel, Mozart, new york times, romantic, wagner.

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