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Charlotte Symphony Gets the Blues

Jan 22, 2024

Lawrence Toppman, WDAV -- 

Patrons arrived with lips turned blue by the sudden savagery of a January wind. Soloist Jennifer Koh stood on the Knight Theater podium, her bright blue hair shining like a cheerful beacon. And Missy Mazzoli's Violin Concerto, commissioned for Koh in 2021 she alone has the right to perform it through February 2 of this year had a bluesy tinge throughout, whether in the mournful or uplifting sections.

Folks who thirsted for melodies had to wait for the last piece of the night, a suite from Aaron Copland's ballet "Billy the Kid." Neither Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra nor Jennifer Higdon's suite from her opera "Cold Mountain" provided tunes worth speaking of.

But while Mazzoli didn't make melody her goal, she ran through so many moods in her concerto that she consistently aroused my interest. I didn't take the title "Procession" or the titles of the five linked movements too seriously, except as a vague indicator of diverse emotions. But from the first loud orchestral groan, which underpinned Koh's swirling solos, I felt connected.

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