The North Carolina Symphony concluded its Wilmington season with an all-German program that juxtaposed the ceremonial, the diversionary, and the dramatic. The first work was Beethoven's overture the "Consecration of the House," commissioned for the reopening of an important Viennese theatre. This extroverted piece begins in march-like fashion, and continues in a rigorously worked-out section based on a single rhythmic motive. The performance, led by William Henry Curry, opened with solid full chords and caught the ceremonial, even pompous character of the first section. The trumpet fanfare, with the skittering line underneath, was effective. The longer developmental section was dynamic and gave the program an opening burst of energy.
The next work offered one of the periodic showcases of the orchestra's members as high-caliber soloists. This was the Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299 by Mozart. The piece is primarily lyrical rather than rhythmic. It was commissioned for a Parisian father-daughter pair and does not attempt to plumb any great depths. Yet it has significant beauties. In this performance, the first movement had a clear, transparent sound and graceful phrasing, despite the good-sized string ensemble. The flutist, Mary Boone, phrased beautifully, with a rich, full tone. The harpist, Anita Burroughs-Price, had an equally rich sound, though at times a conflicting harmony would carry through. The balance between the soloists was finely drawn, nowhere more so than in the cadenza, which highlighted the tone and line of both.
The orchestra's rendition of the second movement could have been richer, more lovingly sustained – something the size of the ensemble would have supported. This movement shows the full lyrical genius of Mozart, creating instrumental music with all the expressiveness of the voice. The soloists projected that, especially in the soaring latter part of the main melody. The phrasing in the harp was very sensitive. The short cadenza also stood out in this regard, as did the duet with the flute which followed.
The ending rondo was not as successful. On the one hand, the flute had a fine, perky theme, which was matched by delicate playing from the orchestra's small contingent of winds. The pizzicato sections were also very fine. Yet overall this movement was a bit staid. It was enjoyable, but didn't fully capture the spice and sheer sense of fun which is the spirit of this bubbly music.
After intermission the program concluded with the weighty, powerful Symphony No. 4 in D minor by Robert Schumann. The orchestra always seems at home in 19th century music. The very dry Kenan Auditorium acoustics are unfortunately a drawback in big-scaled pieces like this, as the full resonance of the sound does not reverberate. Yet the performance was strong and effective. The symphony is played without pause, and each movement transforms the first movement material. The overall continuity was well-projected.
Perhaps the introduction to the first movement could have been darker, even more somber. But this was followed by sharp, well-executed rhythm and a dramatic start to the development. On the whole the performance carried a good deal of tension, with strong crescendos. The coda brought a sweeping character, part of the essence of this romantic work. At times, more dynamic contrast on the very soft side of the scale would have given it greater variety.
The following movement is a quintessential expression of Schumann's lyrical nature. It featured sensitive phrasing by the winds, with tight transitions between the sections. The violin solo was lovely, and blended well with the accompanying instruments. This song-like second movement segued into a vigorous, taut rendering of the third. In contrast, the phrases in the gentle trio section were lovingly shaped, and seemed even gentler when the trio was repeated.
This ushered in a hushed, dramatic transition to the last movement. The gradual opening of the sound in this epic section culminated in a grand climax and the arrival of the fourth movement proper. This was exciting and triumphal, with ample contrast of lyrical and rhythmic material. The work and the concert concluded in a blaze of excitement, well-received by the amply-sized Kenan Auditorium audience.