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Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos


In a previous blog post, I featured a list of my favorite orchestral clarinet solos. While a significant amount of my in the orchestra is spent playing the clarinet, there are many occasions when you can also catch me at CSO concerts performing on the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet is often featured for its ability to fortify and color the woodwind section. Nevertheless, there are some spectacular passages that spotlight the appeal of this magnificent instrument as a solo instrument in its own right.

Here are my Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos:

10) William Schuman's Symphony No. 3 (Part II, Toccata)

After a brief snare drum solo, the bass clarinet introduces the thematic material for the Toccata movement. Here is a chance to hear the bass clarinet whip up and down the lowest and highest parts of its range in an impressive display of virtuosic technique.

9) Gershwin's Concerto in F (Second movement)

This is a clarinet section soli accompanying various wind solos. It shows how wonderful the clarinets sound together with the bass clarinet filling out the bass line. Of particular note is the slinky and sensuous close harmony, which is unmistakably the sound of Gershwin!



8) Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, middle of Pas de Deux)

The Sugar Plum Fairy solo is a classic -- instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent time in an elevator during Christmas season. The Pas de Deux solo is an especially tender bit of melodic writing for the bass clarinet.

7) Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 (Fifth movement)

Low register mischief displays the boisterous side of the instrument's personality. 



6) Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (Act II, scene 3)

Wagner may have understood the lyrical capabilities and expressive character of the bass clarinet better than any other composer. These gorgeous opera passages really dig deep into the mournful, introspective side of the instrument.

5) Wagner's Die Walkure (Act II, scene 2; Act III, scene 3)

These two opera scenes showcase some of the best of the many big moments for bass clarinet in Wagner's Ring Cycle. For a truly outstanding example of great bass clarinet playing, try to get your hands on the Metropolitan Opera recording featuring former CSO clarinetist Jim Ognibene, who sadly passed away last year.



4) Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Opening)

You've heard of Dueling Banjos; these are dueling bass clarinets!

3) Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony (First movement)

This is one of the prettiest melodies written for the instrument. It features the lyrical solo capabilities inherent in the bass clarinet's deep, dark voice.



2) Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (First movement)

Mahler and the bass clarinet go together like fine red wine and dark chocolate. Don't miss a lot more great writing for the instrument in Symphonies 1, 4, 7, and 9.

1) Khachaturian's Piano Concerto

Soaring, sustained solo passages venture into the lowest of low notes on the bass clarinet. Listen also for the unusual sound of a Flexatone -- a rarely scored percussion instrument. See also: Beginning and ending of second movement.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Musicians.

The Classical Series: Reimagined


Your Charlotte Symphony's virtual concerts have already been viewed by thousands of people and received widespread acclaim, with a critic from Classical Voice North Carolina observing that, "the Charlotte Symphony's [virtual concert series] demonstrates the persistence and resilience of the arts and artists and the organization's commitment to its musicians, as well as its listening community."

We're reimagining what it means to serve as your orchestra during the pandemic, and it's been thrilling to find new and innovative ways to bring the music directly to you and your families. 

But we're just getting started! The New Year brings four new virtual concerts.

Highlights include:

  • The return of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducting works by Elgar, Holst, Mozart, and more.
  • The continuation of our celebration of Beethoven 250 with performances of his First and Seventh Symphonies.
  • Concertmaster Calin Ovidiu Lupanu and Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn take center stage for concerti by Mendelssohn and Hummel, respectively. 
  • Contemporary works by Jessie Montgomery and Leonardo Balada, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees.
 

We're Here to Help

We want you to make sure that everything is working for you once you're settled in to watch our concerts. Please check out this blog post for information on how to access the CSO's virtual concerts. We also have step-by-step instructions for how to stream the concert from a variety of devices, including your computer, phone, or smart TV.  

If you would prefer to speak to someone, please contact Patron Services at 704.972.2000 or ticketoffice@charlottesymphony.org
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Music Director, Musicians, Virtual Concerts.

What I have learned (and am learning) as a professional musician


By Violinist Jenny Topilow

As an orchestral player and violinist, like all musicians, I have a long list of compositions that I turn to time and time again for emotional and aesthetic fulfillment on a personal level; works that are particularly beautiful and/or satisfying to me. These pieces include the late Beethoven Quartets, Stravinsky's "Petrushka," Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, the Bartok Quartets, Debussy's "La Mer," Caroline Shaw's "Partita for Eight Voices," and Andy Akiho's "21," to name a few. 

It's funny to think, however, that the most memorable and important moments that I have had as a member of the Charlotte Symphony really have nothing to do with my list of favorite works. The most poignant experiences of my tenure as a musician are exactly that, experiences; experiences that have deeply moved me, changed my perception, taught me, connected me to those around me, and have brought me closer to my community.

Major side note: I'm not a huge fan of the term "classical music" as I feel that "classical" is simply a descriptor of a specific era in Western music (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms). I would never discount the absolute brilliance of those composers, yet the breadth of what is coined as "classical music" encompasses so much more than what the antiquated term has to offer. Maybe "orchestral music" and "art music," etc., could serve our purposes better.

But, I digress, because even if I personally believe it's outdated, I still call myself a "classical musician," since the label itself is the most recognized tag for what I do -- interpret and play music written by other people. In that sense, we are more like actors; we are not creators, we are not artists (in my opinion), but we have devoted ourselves to creators and artists. So at its core, even though it is vast, every orchestra on the planet plays music from a finite pool of works. That being said, what I have learned is that it is not the music (alone) that makes an orchestra, but the community that it is part of. The Charlotte Symphony belongs to all of Charlotte; every member of the community should feel ownership of the organization and all arts organizations throughout the city. It's this sense of ownership that builds commitment, connection, and those beautiful, profound experiences through music that are transcendent, beyond the notes on the page. All art for all people.

It would be remiss of me to not give personal examples of music plus circumstance making for meaningful experience. Here are two:
  1. The CSO accompanied the Morehouse College Glee Club in a performance of Atlanta based composer Joel Thompson's "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," a work that uses the liturgical format of Haydn's "Seven Last Words of Christ" to honor and humanize black men unjustly murdered, namely Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo, and John Crawford. It is a sobering piece that reminds us of how powerful art can be when inspired by, and dedicated to, relevant and pertinent issues. The experience of the performance connected everyone in the room through a shared understanding of the necessity of the message and the emotion of that message being delivered through song by those directly affected by the theme of the work.

  2. Last season the CSO started a series called CSO Off the Rails, where smaller ensembles curate programs to be played at Snug Harbor, a local club/bar/music venue and Charlotte staple. Essentially standing room only with a small stage about three feet off the ground, these shows are really an immersive and interactive experience, bringing what we do to an audience that wouldn't necessarily seek out music at a concert hall. The success of the series, the energy surrounding it, and the electric atmosphere in the room during performances has solidified in my mind that "classical music" is completely accessible to everyone when we remove the formality and actively engage with the community.
These are just a few examples of many, and I feel unendingly grateful to be in a field where these experiences are not only possible, but essential. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Playing for the Panthers

We got a kick out of opening this Sunday's Carolina Panthers game with a rousing rendition of The National Anthem. The game may have been a loss for the Panthers, but it was a win for Byron Johns (French horn), Alex Wilborn, Jonathan Kaplan (trumpet), Thomas Burge (trombone), and Scott Hartman (bass trombone), who didn't fumble a single note. Go team!

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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

Make an Impact TODAY!


Thank you for considering a gift as part of your year-end contributions! Your support provides stability and ensures that we remain committed to providing exceptional musical experiences across our community. 

We wanted to tell you about some important CARES Act provisions that are scheduled to expire at year's end. These provisions make it easier for you to make a gift to the CSO!
  • A temporary suspension of required minimum distributions (RMD) for the 2020 tax year. If you are 70 ½ or older, you can still make a gift from your IRA.

  • An expanded charitable giving incentive that allows taxpayers who take the standard deduction to make up to $300 in charitable cash contributions to qualified charities this year.

  • For those who itemize your deductions, the law allows for cash contributions to be deducted up to 100% of your adjusted gross income for the 2020 calendar year.
There are many ways to support your CSO. Please visit our Annual Giving page to explore those options. You can make an online gift by visiting our Give Today page.

In addition, with the stock market at record highs, gifts of Securities or Mutual Funds can be a convenient way to make a contribution. For more information and transfer instructions, please click here.

The Charlotte Symphony is sustained by the support of our donors. We are so grateful for your generosity, which touches and changes so many lives. 

Please contact Leslie Antoniel at 704.714.5139 or Micah Cash at 704.714.5108 to discuss how your gift can help further our mission. Read more

Posted in Support. Tagged as Support the Symphony.

The path to playing professionally, by CSO Violist Viara Stefanova


Making music isn't like listening to music. It isn't like anything else in life. It is something very special for all musicians. It's our life, our call, and our love. Experiencing the power of playing on stage is unlike any other experience or feeling. There is so much meaning in the melodies and harmonies we play; it's a world of constant discoveries of the human's state of mind, heart, and soul. Once we've been on stage, we can never forget it, and we keep doing it no matter how many challenges we might face.

It all starts in our childhood. At first we're curious and excited about the instrument we pick. We learn a couple of songs and then some harder songs, and it's all good and still exciting. Later on, when we are ready to play not just songs, but some classical repertoire, the real challenge appears. Sometimes practicing seems tedious, tiring, and frustrating. Many times it felt like we would never get it right, no matter how hard we tried. Day after day, after hours of practicing, we would find out how much perseverance, patience, and determination we would need to achieve a higher level of understanding and perform the music we love. The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty. Before we learned any piece of music, we would have to study the different styles, forms, and structure of the music.

Once we were in college we continued to learn how to practice efficiently and wisely; what to do to avoid the sore muscles and physical pains from over practicing. We would continue with even more patience and would keep pressing on, since the professional auditions are tough. We had to compete with hundreds of fellow musicians for one spot in the orchestra. We had to stay healthy emotionally after we failed an audition and learn how to deal with it.

"The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty."

The more challenging it got, the more fascinated we were, and the better we understood the incredible genius of the composers. Every chord, every harmony is there for a purpose. The complicated works by composers like Brahms, Mahler, or Tchaikovsky are difficult not only technically but also musically. A performer needs to be experienced and mature to understand the music and perform it the way it's meant to be performed. The simple melodies of the classical composers like Mozart or Beethoven are even harder to perform because it takes a world to achieve the lightness and simplicity of their music. Every note is so exposed, every slip of the finger can be heard. It all takes a practice-until-perfection approach. And even though we can't be perfect, we continuously aim for it. There is no other way to play an exceptional work of art.

So, we do whatever it takes to bring to life the amazing music that influences people's lives; because we understand what a great privilege it is to perform works written by some of the most extraordinary minds born on this earth. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Celebrating the Power of Women in Art

A special collaboration between the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint Museum



In celebration of The Mint Museum's new installation, Foragers, the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint partnered with Wells Fargo to create a short film that unites the visual and performing arts. 

The artistic collaboration features Charlotte Symphony violinist Jenny Topilow, violist Alaina Rea, cellist Sarah Markle, and harpist Andrea Mumm Trammell performing works by Arvo Pärt and Caroline Shaw in front of Summer Wheat's contemporary work of art in the Mint's Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium.

We welcome you to experience the power of women in art presented at the intersection of art, architecture, and music.

This special presentation is brought to you by Wells Fargo, The Private Bank.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Clarinet Solos



By CSO Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld

As a 34-year veteran of the CSO, I am often asked what music I particularly like. With that in mind, I've devised a list of my top ten favorite orchestral clarinet solos. Come listen to the orchestra in our performances and you will hear many more examples of great musical passages featuring the clarinet!

10) Respighi: Pines of Rome (end of Pines of the Janiculum)
Respighi effectively highlights the tremendous ppp (pianississimo, or "very very quiet") capabilities of the instrument. As the clarinet sound floats away, a recording of a nightingale can be faintly heard.  

9) Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini
I love Tchaikovsky for his truly memorable melodies. This one especially shows off the expressive qualities of the instrument.


8) Brahms: Symphony No. 3 (opening of second movement)
Gorgeous! You can hear in this solo with woodwind chorale that Brahms had a particular fondness for the sound of the clarinet, and he knew just how to make it sing.

7) Puccini: Tosca (Act III, "E Lucevan le Stelle")
One of the greatest clarinet solos in opera literature, from one of the most readily recognizable Italian arias.


6) Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (beginning)
Anyone who has ever seen Woody Allen's film "Manhattan" knows there's no way I could leave this showstopper off the list. 

5) Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
There are three big clarinet solos spread throughout this suite. And they are big: erotic, wild, frenzied cadenzas with lots of notes!


4) Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (middle of second movement)
The clarinet solo Beethoven wrote here really allows the sound of the instrument to soar above the orchestra.

3) Rimsky-Korsakoff: Cappriccio Espagnol 
A dazzling display of clarinet bravura and technique. 


2) Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 (beginning of first movement)
Another great lyrical solo for clarinet, especially showing off the instrument's ability to taper sound into nothingness.

1) Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 
This solo is one of the most romantic lyrical melodies ever written for the clarinet.



Honorable Mention: Kodaly's Dances of Galanta 
This solo and cadenza seem perfectly suited to the clarinet, full of gypsy character and technical pyrotechnics.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as CSO Musicians.

CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong



This fall, CSO musicians and the Beatties Ford Strong Project came together to create a video project that was inspired by and features the music of Brooklyn-based violinist and composer Jessica Montgomery, and showcases the Beatties Ford Strong Project, violinist/composer Lady Jess, musicians of the Charlotte Symphony, and Charlotte-based artists. 

Below, we hear from CSO violinist Jenny Topilow, educator/artist/social activist Ricky Singh, and Charlotte-based artists on how the collaboration was conceived, their reactions, and what comes next.


"We have been referring to the project as CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong" Ricky says. "The X is intentional, for we feel that a title that is purposefully not combined respects each entity as having its own identity, and also allows for either side of the equation to be replaced or modified as the project evolves to encourage further community engagement."



"I've always been enamored with public art," Jenny shares, "murals and such that everyone can enjoy by simply being a member of the community; beautiful pieces by talented artists that become interwoven throughout the landscape and make a place more vibrant and colorful."

In February of this year, a quartet of CSO musicians played Jessie Montgomery's Strum for a CSO Off the Rails concert at Snug Harbor. According to Jenny:

We completely fell in love with the piece. We were slated to play it again, but when the pandemic hit, that performance was of course canceled. So, it occurred to me that it would be a lovely marriage to record 'Strum,' during this new virtual age, in front of public art in Charlotte, specifically works created by people of color.

Excited about the idea, I reached out to a muralist friend of mine, who got me in touch with Ricky Singh. Ricky is an artist, educator, community leader/activist, and one of the founders of the Beatties Ford Strong/Historic West End Project, an initiative to beautify neglected areas of the city through public art paired with community ownership, brought about as a reaction to the June 19, 2020 massacre on Beatties Ford Road, where four people were killed and several others injured.

My introduction to Ricky was the catalyst for the project to really take flight through intentional collaboration. We communicate well and ended up making a good team; we are mutually intent on the vision and are invested in being proactive and bringing the best of what we know to the table. All that being said, there is no way for me to truly express how grateful I am to Ricky. He is a beacon within the Charlotte community, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have formed a partnership with him.

There are so many artistic circles throughout Charlotte that are too often separated by class and race. The purpose of this project is to bring some of those circles together; not for one to overshadow another, not for one to do the other a favor, not for one to mold to the other, but for local creatives to do what they love all within the same space. We are committed to having more multi-faceted performances throughout Charlotte, through the lens of all art being accessible to all people, and with the ultimate objective of limitless circles overlapping to create a more connected city.


"My experience with the project was nothing like I ever experienced before," Artist Michael Grant shares. "This project captured both classical art and visual arts simultaneously. As an artist this project made me feel valuable and appreciated. It was such an honor to be a part of this moment of history and to collaborate with great artists as well." 

Artist Makayla Binter also shares that "[the project] was just so pure and enjoyable because of the connection between artistic forms, and just the positive energy that creating makes. It was a great experience to live paint and also meet some very talented artists in music that I had never met before."


Ricky and Jenny plan to unveil the finished video at an event on a large screen, where they would also auction off the pieces of art created during filming. It is not finalized, but they are hoping to utilize a space like Camp Northend, where people can come to a beautiful outdoor area and celebrate in a Covid-safe way. All proceeds would go to provide local youth programming tied to the arts. 

Credits:


Organized by Ricky Singh and Jenny Topilow

Featured Artists:
Michael Grant (@infamous_kiddo)
Makayla Binter (
@mkay_15)
Ricky Singh (
@mrrickysingh)
DJ Pauly Guwop (
@djpaulyguwop)
Lord Phly (
@lordphly)
Lute West (
@lute_west9)
Dancer: Jessica Thompson (
@babyhairprincess)
Spoken Word: Hannah Hasan (
@iamhannahhasan)
CSO Musicians: Jenny Topilow, violin; Lenora Leggatt, violin; Ben Geller, viola; and Sarah Markle, cello

Videographer/video & sound editor:

Bob Rydel
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

What Christopher Warren-Green Loves About CSO On Demand

Photo by Joshua Komer, The Charlotte Observer

Christopher Warren-Green sees opportunities as he embarks on an unprecedented season at the helm of the Charlotte Symphony

When Music Director Christopher Warren-Green returned to Charlotte in October, it had been more than 7 months since he stood at the podium. "It's like a great big hole in your life," he said about the lengthy break from performing. "It's forced me to slow down and reevaluate what's important." 

One thing that's important to Maestro Warren-Green is getting back to work with the musicians of the CSO. "When you have an Orchestra that's played together for 80 years, it becomes like its own instrument a well-oiled machine with its own developed sound. If they go too long without playing together it can cause problems, not to mention that we'd all have nervous breakdowns! At the end of the day, we all live, eat, and breathe music. You wouldn't do this job if that wasn't true."

"We are living in a technological revolution, and maybe something good comes out of this."

While concerts this season -- Warren-Green's eleventh with the CSO -- might be a bit different, the Maestro is looking forward to the opportunities that it will bring. "Because of social distancing, we've had to scale down from our full symphony orchestra. What that does, strangely enough, is give us the opportunity to explore repertoire that we wouldn't normally be able to share with our audience."

CSO on Demand -- the Symphony's virtual concert series -- includes two concerts conducted by Maestro Warren-Green this fall, including works by Brahms, Dvořák, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky. He's been pleasantly surprised by the success of virtual concerts during the quarantine. "As a musician watching the BBC Proms from my living room this year, it was almost like the concert was happening just for me. And knowing that there were thousands of other people in their houses feeling the same thing; it really got into my heart. I thought, 'Wow! There is something really special going on.' We are living in a technological revolution, and maybe something good comes out of this."

His advice for you? "Get dressed, go into your living room, have a glass of wine, sit down and make sure no one interrupts you. Do that and watch our virtual concerts, and you'll get something extraordinary from it." Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as CSO On Demand, Music Director, Virtual Concerts.

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