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You'd have to be mighty fastidious not to have found something to your liking at the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra program Sunday evening. Presented in Jones Auditorium at Meredith College, it opened with the "Star Spangled Banner" and closed with Leroy Anderson's "Fiddle-Faddle." Between these pieces was much fine fare to enjoy.
Conductor Alan Neilson led a solid version of Schubert's energetic Rosamunde Overture. The players seemed quite well rehearsed for this work, showing surprising precision. Then followed two selections from Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet, Op. 17. The program notes called attention to the "haunting oboe melody foreshadow(ing) the impending tragedy." This melody was indeed pleasingly realized, furnishing effective contrast to the vigorous orchestration so typical of Berlioz.
Smetana's "Dance of the Comedians," from the Bartered Bride, led up to intermission. This rousing piece must have left the players, particularly the violins, well ready for a break.
In his opening remarks, Neilson mentioned that Delius is infrequently performed in this era and locale. That fact can indeed be noted and also regretted. His works tend to be sure crowd pleasers, as was "The Walk to the Paradise Garden," where the smooth opening cellos and the woodwinds throughout kept the listener feeling well uplifted. The second Delius piece was the familiar "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring." One would be unlikely to find two better selections to represent Delius' output. If Neilson can mount a "mini-revival" of these works, it would be to his genuine credit.
So what of "Passing on the Traditions"? The last two works were conducted by Yang Xi, a violin and viola teacher who is also Assistant Concertmaster of the RSO (and who appears as well to be a strong orchestra leader). Providing a major supplement to the orchestra for these pieces were no fewer than sixteen violinists. Called The Carolinian Virtuosi, these players were from local high, middle, and elementary schools, along with some who were home schooled. They lent their splendid talents to the "gypsy" standard, Czardas, by V. Monti. Closing the program was the aforementioned "Fiddle-Faddle." The students played both of these pieces entirely from memory.
If this appearance by these youngsters constitutes passing along great music traditions, then the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra management is clearly onto something. Seeing these young artists tackle such demanding works prompts one to feel optimism for the future of worthwhile music.