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An outstanding evening of American and Russian music was presented September 29 in the Long View Center. The artists included principals of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, one of the capital's two community orchestras, plus contributions from Raleigh-based composer and pianist Lanette Lind. The results were gratifying in many respects.
The program began with a Lullaby by Lind, drawn from her choral work "We Are Brothers After All." This was sung by soprano Dena Byers, whose career encompasses performances in opera, oratorio and musical theatre. Her diction was exemplary in this short number, dedicated on this occasion "to mothers everywhere who have suffered losses in such places as Bosnia, Auschwitz [and] Wounded Knee" and also "in memory of September 11, 2001." A moment of silence followed the rendition.
The program continued with the first two movements of Prokofiev's Sonata in D, Op. 94. The violinist was Tasi Matthews, Concertmistress of the RSO. Her playing was distinguished in every respect, and the support she received from pianist Lind was likewise exemplary. The room is well suited to chamber music, and one can only hope that the planned renovations will not interfere with its fine acoustics. That some work is needed is however clear. The lighting was abysmal.
Next up was the world premiere of Lind's "Four Unknown Dances," scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano and played by Irene Burke, the RSO's Principal Piccolo (whose skill as a flutist was readily apparent), Jim Williams, the RSO's Principal Clarinet, Matthews, Jane Salemson, the RSO's Principal Cello, and Lind. The four-movement work is based on "Primitive Dances," an earlier orchestral composition. The instruments were adeptly handled and the results were consistently impressive. The first three numbers are slow, dark and introspective; the finale bubbles a bit more but nonetheless contains dark, ruminative undertones. In all cases, the clarity of the individual voices was noteworthy and balance and ensemble were first rate. Each player had many solo opportunities, either alone or above other members of the group. These dances might be described as derivative-portions suggested Delius in his most pastoral moods-but this would do Lind a disservice. She is an important local composer. In addition, she has three major attributes: she is (1) alive, (2) an American, and (3) a woman. Her music has been heard locally from time to time, often courtesy of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. Her work merits additional performances here by other groups.
Following the intermission, recent works by Richard Faith, another living American composer, bracketed a pair of piano pieces by Kabalevsky. A short, slow Prelude by the latter preceded a dazzling reading of his Rondo, known to keyboard specialists as a piece that was required repertoire for the international piano competition that Van Cliburn won.
Faith's Sea Pieces, for clarinet and piano, proved attractive and engaging, particularly given the committed playing of Williams and Lind. Here and elsewhere during this program it was evident that the so-called professional artists in our midst don't hold a hammerlock on musical excellence--there is a great range and depth of talent throughout our musical superstructure. The music was refreshing--this work was new to this listener but proved immediately attractive. Indeed, the two parts flowed like the sea itself and often sparkled, too, as waves do when touched by sunlight.
The concluding work was Faith's Fantasy Trio, for clarinet, violin and piano. The finale may be a bit overstated but the response of the crowd showed that it was a welcome addition to the local repertoire. During the performance there was some light intrusion from a concurrent religious music program across the street in Moore Square.
Our chief reservation centers on the printed program, which contained composer and performer bios but omitted dates of the works and notes on the compositions, aside from "Four Unknown Dances." Still, the offerings were noteworthy and newsworthy, too. The lineup consisted of 20th-century Russian works and recent American pieces, and the performances were of high quality throughout. It was a particular pleasure to hear Lind's solid pianism in works other than her own. The orchestra's Music Director, Alan Neilson, was in the audience to provide moral support to his players and to savor their artistry. The RSO will present some of its key players in another evening of chamber music next March. Be there!