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Greensboro Symphony's "Season of Seven" is upon us. In their search for a new music director, the symphony has invited a tour de force of seven conducting candidates from esteemed ensembles across the country. Looking for a maestro that represents the orchestra's ideals of artistic range, global perspective, diversity, and dynamic leadership, I expect each of the seven candidates to bring a unique perspective to Greensboro. Kicking off the search with a homecoming was former director of the Winston-Salem Symphony and current director of the Memphis Symphony, Robert Moody.
Bringing a freshness and vigor to the podium that I haven't seen in some years with the Greensboro Symphony, Moody opened the concert with a favorite among audiences, Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2. Influenced by Spanish and Latin American dance music, the piece is brimming with energy and earworm melodies; Moody matched the music's gusto without also inviting a sense of overbearing machismo. While many ensembles take Danzon No. 2 at a blistering tempo, Moody made a bold choice to slow down the most turbulent section, highlighting the dissonance of clashing melodies instead of barreling through without clarity. From my seat in the house, Moody's interpretation looked both clear and decisive, although at times, I got the impression the orchestra was sluggish in following his lead. Coordination between the podium and the orchestra tightened up during the Lalo Cello Concerto with soloist Gabriel Martins. Moody left plenty of space for Martins to take the lead, often communicating only a gentle sense of pulse.
After Martin's tender encore, Moody started the second half sharing about his relationship to Beethoven and his interpretation of Beethoven's 7th Symphony. Having studied all nine Beethoven symphonies, Moody has found a reoccurring motive which he refers to as "The Growl," a rocking, Jaws-like rumble in the lowest range of ensemble. By the time of this symphony's composition, it was common knowledge that Beethoven was suffering from deafness, and although this was perhaps one of the lowest times in Beethoven's life, the Symphony No. 7 is resolutely optimistic and forward. Reading between the lines, Moody finds that the sincerity of the work lies in the way "The Growl," a depiction of Beethoven's deafness, is consistently overwhelmed by the gaiety which permeates the totality of the work.
After an august opening, the any perceived sluggishness I felt during the Marquez dissipated as Moody and the orchestra finally connected. Maintaining their momentum, the ensemble moved through each movement attacca without letting any energy deflate. Even in the hush of the second movement, Moody carried the ensemble through with a sense of quiet determination. In my favorite movement of the piece, Moody perfectly captured the flippant lightness of the Presto with a fluttering left-hand gesture like wings of a little bird. Clearly gracious for the opportunity to work with the Greensboro Symphony, Moody's excitement fueled the ensemble as both rushed boldly to the finale.
Flipping through their season program, the Greensboro Symphony has a mountain of excellent music to perform. I encourage attendees to stay observant, share their opinions, and meet with the candidates after their performances. Not only is this search an opportunity for the symphony to bring in an energized leader, but this is also an opportunity to bring in a world-class artist for the community. If the next six conducting candidates have as much charisma and skill to offer as Moody, GSO should enjoy a great season amid their search.