Orchestral Music Review Print



North Carolina Symphony - Classical Stories

June 14, 2008 - Cary, NC:


"Summerfest" is an apt name for this continuing North Carolina Symphony series. Summer was much in evidence, and the proceedings were festive enough at Cary's Booth Amphitheatre, the orchestra's summer home. (The weather, though, proved to be much more favorable than it might well have been. A merciful Saturday afternoon thunderstorm had passed through about an hour before, affording a good ten degrees of blessed relief.)

Although these outdoor venues are not noted for great acoustics, one was immediately struck by the surprisingly good sound as the orchestra opened the program of "stories" from the classical literature. The combination of stage and sound system was effective indeed. Choosing the "Witch’'s Ride" from the Humperdinck opera Hansel und Gretel to open, Assistant Conductor Joan Landry was able to elicit the most from the players. Her animated conducting style would seem to leave little to the imagination as to what she wanted at every stage of the music.

The popular showpiece, "Danse Macabre," by Saint-Saëns featured the violin of skilled concertmaster Brian Reagin in the role of Death. Three movements from another audience favorite, Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty, led into intermission. Harpist Anita Burroughs-Price enhanced the gorgeous "Adagio." The rambunctious "Finale” made one suspect that the earlier thunderstorm might be returning.

In an oblique nod to Fathers' Day, the second half was given over to that father”" of all tall tales, Rimsky-Korsakov’'s Scheherazade. Many consider this piece to be a music cliché. But the less sophisticated among us will contend that a really good cliché can be worth its weight in gold. Landry wrung from the players the huge sound this magical old work deserves. Reagin's solo violin assumed the lead role in the beginning of "The Sea and Sinbad's Ship" and throughout, appearing again and again as Scheherazade herself. The polished tones of Bonnie Thron’'s cello were also prominent in this movement and in "The Story of the Kalandar Prince."

The orchestra was at its most luxuriant in the romantic movement, "The Young Prince and the Young Princess." The young people here sing of the love that inspired the Norman Luboff choral work, "Garden of Love," in which these lush melodies are employed so effectively.

These summer evenings at the Booth Amphitheatre have emerged as popular socio-musical events. They draw large crowds with their folding chairs, tables, coolers, picnic baskets, and elaborate spreads. You were guaranteed a jolly time on this storytelling evening, whether you belonged to the brie and chardonnay set or you felt more at home with the pasteurized process variety and a can of Cheerwine.

Summerfest continues for the next five Saturdays. For details, click here [inactive 8/10].