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Bringing his magnificent 1708 "Ruby" Stradivarius violin, Juilliard-trained and multi-Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint will join the North Carolina Symphony in a centennial celebration of the renowned composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Music Director Grant Llewellyn, who counts Bernstein among his most important mentors, will conduct three performances in the Triangle, January 25 to 27. Musicians and organizations worldwide are presenting concerts of Bernstein's brilliant music to honor the music legend in his centennial year.
Quint, lauded for his "searing poetic lyricism" (The Daily Telegraph) will perform Bernstein's Serenade (After Plato's "Symposium"), which is essentially a five-movement violin concerto; it is also one of Bernstein's most lyrical works. As the title suggests, the piece was inspired by Plato's dialogue Symposium. (Bernstein explained: "The music, like the dialogue, is a series of related statements in praise of love, and generally follows the Platonic form through the succession of speakers at the banquet.") The Serenade offers intensely romantic melodies, dashes of mystery and humor, and joyful energy. A heartfelt theme ties the work together: beautifully expressive when it first appears in the opening movement, returning in various guises throughout, and redefined in the finale — becoming more and more energetic until it is swept away in the festivities of the orchestra.
Whereas the Serenade reveals Bernstein as an academic — putting the writing of an ancient Greek philosopher into musical expression — Fancy Free shows Bernstein at his most exuberant. His music, written for the Jerome Robbins ballet about three sailors looking for adventure while on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City, is adored for its rhythmic excitement and snappy jazz themes. This program marks the North Carolina Symphony's first performances of the ballet suite.
"In the same way that the Serenade looks inward, Fancy Free looks outward," says Llewellyn. "It is a quintessential piece of Americana, with Bernstein drawing on eclectic musical trends and making them his own." Llewellyn treasures a special connection with Bernstein, having studied with him during a summer as a Conducting Fellow at Tanglewood in 1985. They continued to cross paths as he began his professional career, and when Bernstein died in 1990, Llewellyn inherited his baton case — which he uses to this day.
Schubert's Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished," is a tale of a very different musical gift. Schubert presented the symphonic fragment—just two complete movements, along with a few measures of a third movement — to a friend who then kept its existence a secret for decades. We may never know why Schubert abandoned the symphony; it has been speculated that he fell too ill with syphilis, or that he was overwhelmed by the shadow of Beethoven, or perhaps he found it impossible to carry the standard of ingenuity he reached in the first two movements into the second two.
After all, the two movements that exist seem perfect in and of themselves. The melancholic and mysterious opening movement builds in tension until giving way to the symphony's most famous melody, which enters like a ray of sunshine. The second movement is an emotional battle of epic proportions. Schubert poured all of his creativity into this "Unfinished" symphony — and, as it turns out, nothing is lacking.
Ticket holders are invited to a free pre-concert talk on the music of Bernstein and Schubert, one hour before each performance. To learn more, please visit ncsymphony.org.
The North Carolina Symphony expresses its appreciation to Saturday Sponsors Duke Health and Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown for their generous support.
The January 27 concert is made possible in part by The Elsie R. Couch/John N. Couch Fund.
North Carolina Symphony
Thursday, January 25 at 7:30pm
Friday & Saturday, January 26 & 27 at 8 pm
Meymandi Concert Hall
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (Raleigh)
North Carolina Symphony
Grant Llewellyn, conductor
Philippe Quint, violin
Bernstein: Fancy Free
Bernstein: Serenade (After Plato's "Symposium")
Schubert: Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished"
TICKETS start at $18
Online: ncsymphony.org (TicketMaster fees apply)
By phone: 919.733.2750 ($8 processing fee applies)
Choose Your Own subscription ticket packages, with savings up to 30%, are also available.
About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony (NCS) is a vital and honored component of North Carolina's cultural life. Its 180+ concerts and 120+ community engagement events annually are greeted with enthusiasm by adults and schoolchildren in more than 90 North Carolina counties — in communities large and small, and in concert halls, auditoriums, gymnasiums, restaurants, clubs, and outdoor settings. The Symphony's full-time professional musicians perform under the artistic leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn.
NCS's state headquarters venue is the spectacular Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. The Symphony's service across the state includes series in Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Wilmington, as well as the Summerfest series at its summer home, the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS brings some of the world's greatest talents to North Carolina and embraces home-state artists from classical musicians to bluegrass bands, creating live music experiences distinctive to North Carolina.
Committed to engaging students of all ages across North Carolina, NCS leads the most extensive education program of any symphony orchestra — serving nearly 70,000 students each year. In alignment with the curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Symphony provides training and resources for teachers, sends small ensembles into classrooms, and presents full-orchestra Education Concerts that bring the fundamentals of music to life. Music Discovery for preschoolers combines music with storytelling, and at the middle and high school levels, students have opportunities to work directly with NCS artists and perform for NCS audiences.
NCS is dedicated to giving voice to new art, and has presented 47 U.S. or world premieres in its history. In March 2017, NCS appeared at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as one of four orchestras chosen for the inaugural year of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras — an honor that recognized the Symphony's creative programming and innovative community partnerships.
The first state-supported symphony in the country, NCS performs under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To learn more, visit ncsymphony.org.