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The Raleigh Civic Symphony Association continues its custom of creating educational and uplifting programs for the Raleigh and NC State University communities. The latest edition was a Schubert Sunday afternoon with the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra and conductor Randolph Foy. The Talley Student Center Ballroom served as the venue.
The first half of the program contained some of the composer's "mature" works (if that term can be used for someone who died at age 37), the Incidental Music from the play Rosamunde. The Ballet 1, a melodic Andante in which the winds were particularly effective, followed the lively Overture. Then came the second Ballet movement with the much-purloined tune for the song about the "three little maids."
It has been claimed that a true highbrow is one who can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking about the Lone Ranger. A similar statement could apply to that magical Schubert ballet music. Genuine lowbrows will be reminded of those three little maids from the Sigmund Romberg operetta, Blossom Time, with its "Mitzi and Fritzi and Kitzi Krantz, eyes that dance, feet that prance...." The players here did a masterly job, also continuing in kind with the equally familiar strains from the Entr'acte III movement.
The piece closing this set, Entr'acte I, featured Schubert at his greatest, and the players in their best form. The fine program notes advised that some scholars think this work probably constituted a draft for the concluding movement of the famous "Unfinished" Symphony. The power of the music lent credibility to that intriguing notion.
Although the Symphony No. 3 is a decidedly "immature" work in terms of the composer's age (Schubert was 17), the music gave no hint of any immaturity. This seldom-heard piece constituted the second half of the afternoon. The opening movement, marked "Adagio maestoso; Allegro con brio," has a bluster that perhaps indicated the cheer and animation of the composer's youth. The horns excelled throughout this piece, and the big sound from the Minuetto movement bespoke much larger forces. Foy invited the audience to listen for touches of Rossini, under whose influence Schubert (and the rest of the Viennese) had fallen. It was a good and useful exercise. If Mendelssohn would later have his own "Italian" Symphony, why not Schubert also?
In his opening remarks Foy referred to Schubert's exceedingly tender years when he composed his Symphony No. 3. He noticed two obviously sub-seventeeners in the audience and charged them with the task of composing a couple of string quartets before they turn eighteen. So chamber music fans are advised to stand by.