The juxtaposition of rain and the switch back to daylight savings time kept the audience small in Dana Auditorium on the Guilford College campus for a challenging concert of music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93). This concert was part of the current Opus Concert Series, given under the aegis of The Music Center, one of Greensboro's enlightened cultural outreach programs. Getting enough musicians, especially strings, is a constant problem for community orchestras, but since Peter Perret became music director of the Philharmonia of Greensboro, this has been remedied by presenting joint concerts with Perret's other ensemble, the Danville Symphony Orchestra. Both cities benefit from this relationship.
Community orchestras provide outlets for professionals, retirees, and students for whom music is an avocation. Technical abilities are not always on professional levels but there is no lack of commitment and enthusiasm. Perret said most of the younger players are from his Danville orchestra. The age range of the players is from 12 to 98! On this occasion, Perret's interpretations were excellent, but his forces varied greatly in how well they met his demands.
The concert opened with the ever-popular Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture (rev. 1870). Perret mentioned that the original version lacked its now-famous "love theme." There were off-and-on intonation problems throughout, from the dark opening, representing the tomb, through the theme's return at the end. Balance was good despite having only two heroic double bass players (who truly gave their all). There were occasional ensemble problems in the strings and the woodwinds. The love music came off better with fine phrasing from the clarinet. The flutes and harp were excellent, and the brass players were often good or better. The timpanist was superb. Despite flaws, the essence of Tchaikovsky's piece was conveyed.
Excerpts from the Serenade for Strings in C, Op.48, were more uneven. The Andante non troppo and the Elégie-Larghetto elegiaco had several rough intonation problems, but the Valse: Moderato was much better, with stronger ensemble and cleaner playing.
Perret's forces rallied after intermission and pulled off a rousing performance of the Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. The slow introduction, with woodwinds, low strings, and second violins, built up beautifully. The brass, not least the horns, and the woodwinds, too, were very good in the faster portions of the movement. The dark second movement came off well, with a good horn solo and strong contributions from the clarinet, oboe, and bassoons. There was some refined trumpet playing in the third movement waltz, and the low strings conveyed the underlying dark melancholy. The finale was stirring, with vivid timpani playing and some marvelous contributions from the horns, trombones, and trumpets.
The truly imaginative Spring April/May joint concert (TBA) will be devoted entirely to living North Carolina composers. Parents of several too vocal young children would be better advised to bring them to the Pillow concerts, designed for the very young. Details of these pending events will be included in our calendar in due course.