If one could apply the adjective "spectacular" to orchestral sound, then that word would constitute a proper description of the latest offering by the North Carolina Symphony. On a particularly pleasant spring evening Meymandi Concert Hall hosted the orchestra, the featured soloist, and guest conductor Rossen Milanov. This Bulgarian-born musician has conducted numerous ensembles here and abroad, highly celebrated in all venues. Milanov brought profuse energy and animation to the podium. (If he ever tires of conducting, he might consider giving acrobatics a shot.)
"The Tempest" by Tchaikovsky is generally classified as a symphonic fantasy, and that classification seemed apt as Milanov and the players traversed its calms and squalls. The fine-sounding brass and cellos received a good workout. This piece puts one in mind of the composer's numerous other "named" orchestral works, but it lacks the power and resolution of those more frequently performed titles.
Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E-flat was the vehicle chosen by Paul Randall, the orchestra's own principal trumpet. Randall brought true finesse to this noted piece without a hint of stridency. His virtuoso solo turns in the two Allegro movements were especially laudable. The audience justifiably awarded his work with vigorous plaudits.
The aforementioned sound spectacular occurred following intermission. Since the conductor used no score, it was clear that Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade was one of his specialties. He and the players did not disappoint, bringing fresh life to this familiar old warhorse. As the program notes pointed out, the movement names are essentially useless in describing what's going on. (How does one appreciate the differences between "Sinbad's Ship" and "The Kalandar Prince"?) But if the movements were traditionally named, the wonderful third, "The Young Prince and the Young Princess," would perhaps be marked Andante. The famous lush theme begins the long movement and is never far in the background. Anyone who has ever heard Norman Luboff's great choral adaptation of the theme cannot escape the lure of that "Garden of Love." (With a shower of stars from above, / Here at last was my Garden of Love.)
Concertmaster Brian Reagin deserved (and received) highest audience praise for his frequent violin solo work throughout. Scarcely less noteworthy were the exquisite and fleeting interventions by horn (Rebekah Daley) and cello (Bonnie Thron). In fact, here was a real showpiece demonstrating that these "hometown" musicians can hold their own against any and all who may come along.
This program will be repeated 4/27 in Raleigh and 4/28 in Chapel Hill. For details, see the sidebar.