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The hardest-working musicians in captivity have to be the conductors of town and gown orchestras – there are lots of 'em – who every year must rebuild their ensembles as perhaps a quarter of their players – presumably their best and most experienced artists – vamoose for careers, grad school, the services, or what-have-you. In the Ballroom of NCSU's University Student Center on this day, it was clear that Music Director Randolph Foy had worked hard to prepare the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra for its ambitious season debut in music by Mozart and Wagner – and it was also clear that a bit more tweaking would have helped.
The program began with the Overture to Birthday Boy Mozart's Singspiel The Abduction from the Seraglio, a work that, as Foy explained, depicts a clash of cultures – it's all too contemporary for words, and heaven forbid that we arouse the Turks! Anyway, like orchestrations of Beethoven's "Turkish" March, this Overture successfully mingles the conflicting idioms of his – and our – time in one of the most delightful stage works that remains in the repertory. The performance was generally pleasing, despite some problems in the upper strings. The woodwinds were particularly strong in this and in the celebrated Symphony in g minor, K.550, which Foy cast in a whole new light with a fine, albeit too long introduction, that included musical examples played by the orchestra.
Part two of the concert was devoted to the short but quite overwhelmingly beautiful "Siegfried Idyll" by Richard Wagner. Aside from a clutch of piano pieces and an adagio for clarinet and strings (attributed to the Master but apparently by Heinrich Bärmann...), this is Wagner's most intimate score and one of his most accessible, too. It actually calls for fewer people than played it on this occasion but there can have been no quibbling over the sound or performance, aside from a few horn spats. Foy paced the music admirably and the large crowd responded enthusiastically.
These concerts continue in November with a three-part series devoted to music with North Carolina connections – works by Bartók, Kenneth Frazelle, Robert Ward, John Cage, Johann Fr. Peter, Ted Gellar, Lou Harrison, and NCSU Music Department Director J. Mark Scearce. Details will be in our Triangle calendar.