Coping with crisisThe Charlotte Symphony‘s latest installment of its Classical Series: Reimagined was a pleasant, bite-sized concert featuring no more than forty minutes of accessible classical orchestral works. Director Christopher Warren-Green led the masked and distanced players in an elegant interpretation of two charming works full of flair and personality, polished and professional in its digitally live-streamed format.

Mozart’s Divertimento in F, K.138, composed by a sixteen-year-old boy just back from an eventful trip to Italy around 1772, is crisp and charming. The work is regarded as more of a miniature symphony than the name suggests: divertimenti at the time tended to be festive, cheerful, and generally less complex pieces played as background at social events, rather than concert pieces. This performance honored these contrasts with engaging, cheerful melodies treated with elegant restraint.

Despite increased spacing between mask-wearing musicians and the lack of a live audience, the orchestra delivered sparkling vivacity as well as precision. Especially in the third and final “Presto” movement, the CSO’s interpretation was deft yet exciting, exuberant yet refined, perfectly capturing the young prodigy’s mixture of youth and talent.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 64, in A, while composed within a few years of the Divertimento (between 1773-75), is of a markedly different style. Haydn was composing operas around the same time, and there is an obvious contribution of heightened emotion and agitation to the symphony, as well. The winds that joined the ensemble for this portion of the performance added lovely coloring and shading to an energetic Allegro con spirito, but even this was tinged with foreboding jaunts into minor tonalities that hinted at the evolving nature of the symphony. The orchestra nodded at this throughout with the use of subtle pauses as well as strong dynamic contrasts – never obscene or overdone, but still there.

Haydn actually nicknamed this symphony “Tempora mutantur” after an old adage (translated to “times change, and we change with them”), and the second movement especially seems to exemplify this idea. The simpler, aria-like motion at the beginning gave way to complex melody with sudden exclamations of conflict or tension. Throughout the third and fourth movements, the orchestra delivered a more and more exciting emotion, but kept to a framework of delicate refinement, ultimately honoring the legacy of this brilliant composer.

The concert was brief, but a truly charming program well-suited for virtual listening. Both of these composers present an interesting combination of excellence and accessibility, and the orchestra was able to personify both. It was refreshing to listen to a short evening of fine music that didn’t require intense emotional investment but was still rich and complex.