Review

N.C. Symphony balances contrast of storm and stress

CorrespondentNovember 17, 2012 

  • More information
  • More information If you go What: Symphonies by Mozart and Shostakovich presented by the N.C. Symphony Where: Nov. 17 - Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh; Nov. 18 Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill When: 8 p.m. Tickets: $18-$64 Contact: 919-733-2750; ncsymphony.org
  • More information If you go What: Symphonies by Mozart and Shostakovich presented by the N.C. Symphony Where: Nov. 17 - Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh; Nov. 18 Memorial Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill When: 8 p.m. Tickets: $18-$64 Contact: 919-733-2750; ncsymphony.org

— The last two N.C. Symphony classical series concerts in Raleigh have provided instructive programs on the extremes of the symphony as a musical form. Two weeks ago, the program contrasted symphonies by Haydn and Mahler; Friday’s concert paired symphonies by Mozart and Shostakovich.

Both concerts were structured the same: a 20-minute 18th century symphony and a 75-minute 20th century one. This made for awkward early intermission breaks, but the juxtapositions offered dramatic demonstrations of the form’s wide-ranging possibilities. Friday’s concert could have been titled “Sturm und Drang” (“Storm and Stress”), as both works had those elements.

Mozart’s 1773 Symphony No. 25 in G minor came at the beginning of that literary and musical movement, significantly breaking with the tradition of lightly entertaining symphonies in major keys. The first and last movements are particularly dark and moody, and even the third movement minuet is more forceful than usual.

Guest conductor Carlos Kalmar quickly established a precise control, eliciting sharp attacks and highly-charged tempos, but also pointing up subtle waves of dynamics and rhythmic changes with gestures that guided the players and audience members through the score’s various shifts. His was a somber, cool approach that took away some of Mozart’s playfulness that still exists underneath the storminess.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 is called the “Leningrad” because it was a response to Hitler’s devastating assault on that city in 1941. Premiered in 1942, the piece vividly portrays the horror of the attack but also the resilience and determination of the citizens.

The nearly half-hour first movement begins in peace but soon gives way to an inexorably repeating melody representing oncoming forces, culminating in an extremely harsh, hall-rattling battle. The second movement is a grim, ghostly dance, the third mostly funereal with flashes of defiance, the forth a huge buildup to a triumphant fighting back.

Kalmar confidently led the expanded forces gathered for this performance, including ten additional brass players arrayed above the orchestra in the choir loft. The orchestra played brilliantly with frightening fervor, especially the seven-member percussion section.

Kalmar’s approach was clear-eyed and unsentimental, admirably controlling the quick turns and sudden changes dotting the score. Despite some repetitiveness, the score’s overwhelming impact turned the evening into a major event.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service