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Musical Director Lorenzo Muti said his program of three symphonies from the Classical Period was just the kind of program he loved to conduct. Many works of this period are ideal fodder for an ensemble of the size of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. This core repertory helps strengthen every component of performing music. The beautifully restored Carolina Theatre, an old movie house, held a larger audience than usual and they responded to Muti and his capable musician's efforts enthusiastically.
Muti's brief comments about Symphony in D, Op. 18/2 by Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) were about the rarity of a good symphony by an Italian since vocal compositions have dominated their artistry. Clementi was an exception because, while still an adolescent, he was taken to England under the patronage of Sir Peter Beckford of Dorset. Clementi became one of the greatest piano virtuosos of the era, often touring Europe. He met Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and modeled his own works after those of the "Father of the Symphony." Clementi's Symphony in D opens with a slow introduction featuring a melody in the strings set against a baseline in the wind choir, leading to a lively allegro with wide dynamics. The subtly of the orchestra's strings was on display in the following andante. A typical minuet is followed by an attractively themed allegro. This vivacious performance whetted the appetite for sampling one of Clementi's four large post/Op. 18 symphonies in the future.*
The symphonies of Franz Joseph Haydn are unjustly neglected on the state's various orchestras' programs. Symphony No. 98 in B-flat, one of the composer's Twelve London Symphonies, has one of Haydn's characteristic playful touches in the fast last movement. Near the end, the composer slows down the perky main tune for a moderately paced coda that suddenly breaks off, only to come in again with several false stops. Muti and his musicians rose to the challenges of this work, playing with tight ensemble, phrasing with elegance, and maintaining excellent balances between sections of the orchestra. Among the many outstanding individual solos were those of oboist Bo Newsome and cellist Virginia Hudson. The witty finale came off brilliantly.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was visiting the castle of Count Johann Joseph Anton von Thun-Hohenstein in Linz at the end of October and beginning of November 1783. Since he had no symphony handy in his luggage, Mozart tossed off Symphony No. 36 in C, K.425, "Linz" in a few days in time for its premiere November 4, followed by performances in Vienna in 1784 and Prague in 1787. At the end of the symphony's performance, Muti's musicians were like race horses at the finish of a close run. They had performed magnificently. Attacks were crisp with immaculate string articulation in the fastest passages. Woodwinds, horns, and trumpets were glorious and hearty. Finely characterized solos were given by oboist Bo Newsome and bassoonist Christopher Ulffers. Muti took the Presto finale at a justified fast clip but his players kept in lock step. They caught their breath during the well-earned fervent applause.
*Clementi, composer of 110 piano sonatas, began manufacturing pianos in the late 1790's until his factory burned in 1807. Duke University Musical Instruments Collections has a fine, restored E407 Grand Piano by Muzio Clementi &Company that can be heard in recitals.