Once upon a time there was a Duke Tobacco Company of Durham, NC. This organization produced a blend of their finest strains, calling the result "Duke's Mixture." Now, in Stewart Theatre on the N. C. State University campus, conductor Randolph Foy and the Raleigh Civic Symphony have gone those tobacco barons one better. In a huge work named "Symphony Remix," they have blended movements from three of the nineteenth century's grandest symphonies (plus one not quite so grand) into a most absorbing composite, a "symphony" of four movements, each one borrowed from its corresponding position in the donor piece.
The "youngest" of the four works contributed the first movement, Allegretto, from Symphony No. 2 in D by Sibelius. These "seemingly unconnected fragments" (Foy's notes) were so pleasing that you wished the players would segue on into that luxuriant slow movement, one of the most heavenly in all the literature. But Schubert would not be denied. His "Great C Major Symphony" (No. 9), the "oldest" of the four, furnished the Andante con moto. Before you realized it, you were no longer pining for more of the Sibelius. Again from Foy's notes: "This movement is one of Schubert's most memorable journeys into the depths of slow movement writing." Indeed the march-like pace of the dance and the absence of any of his countless song tunes made for effects quite unlike his best-known "Unfinished Symphony." The expert playing of the oboe solos added to the charm. The Scherzo third movement came from Tchiakovsky's Symphony No. 2 ("Little Russian"), not among that composer's best, and easily the least familiar of the four, light and airy without great substance.
For the finale, the players moved on from their most obscure section, turning to possibly the most prominent symphonic movement of all, the ending of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C. One could scarcely have hoped for a more satisfying treatment of that mouthful movement, Adagio – Più andante – Allegro non troppo ma con brio.
Opening the afternoon was the brilliant and popular "Roman Carnival" Overture of Berlioz. Most of the first half of the festivities featured pianist Olga Kleiankina and her imposing treatment of Schumann's Concerto for Piano in A minor. The music world is fortunate that the composer supplemented this wildly celebrated work's initial single movement. The added Intermezzo enabled soloist and players to shine at their lyrical best. And the closing Allegro vivace presented huge demands to the pianist, requirements that this soloist (and N.C. State faculty member) met with seemingly astonishing ease.
Here was a table set with a great load of genuine staples for the music gourmand – no tidbits, canapés, or finger sandwiches. Current students and erstwhile students were well served. As an added educational bonus, the appreciative audience learned that the hitherto unknown nineteenth century composer, S. S. T. Brahms, was a pretty good symphonist.