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On an idyllic Sunday afternoon, the NCSU Talley Student Center Ballroom hosted a music spectrum of some two hundred and fifty years. The program title “Eclectic Mix” was well chosen as Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra Conductor Randolph Foy led the blend of student and community players through a wide range that tended to stimulate one’s artistic and academic interests.
Opening with just the strings was the Purcell suite of incidental music (1695) from the play Abdelazer (or The Moor’s Revenge). The nine sections (dances) of this towering English composer’s work proved to be a lively introduction. The second section, Rondeau, reminded the hearer of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, along with themes from television shows that aspire to artistic significance.
Symphony No. 2 in D (1809) by the French composer Étienne-Nicholas Méhul represented the middle of the time spectrum. It is questionable whether this composer quite deserves the obscurity to which he has been consigned. As Foy pointed out in the program notes and to the audience, Méhul apparently was somewhat of a hero to Beethoven. And it is even conceivable that Beethoven could have been inspired by some of the lesser composer’s boldness. That quality was evident in the very beginning of the symphony as the cellos opened the Adagio-Allegro movement with lusty measures that must have startled early nineteenth century audiences. The drum roll leading into the Finale was also a bold touch, the entire work not at all reminiscent of the likes of Haydn. The music was, as with that of Beethoven, vigorous and not “pretty” in general. But quality-wise, one would scarcely ever be confused as to which work was produced by whom.
American composer David Diamond (1915-2005) wrote a concert suite, Romeo and Juliet, based upon Shakespeare’s play. Here the music was romantic and tuneful in the twentieth century fashion. The violas were able to shine in the “Friar Laurence” movement, whereas the comical and playful “Juliet and Her Nurse” section featured the oboes and the bassoons. All of the well-coached players seemed to be at their best in the somber, plodding “Death of Romeo and Juliet.” Diamond’s music could be compared favorably with the compositions of such justly celebrated Americans as Copland, Hanson, Piston, and Barber.
With such a spread of time and styles covered in this program’s offerings, there was almost certainly at least one tasty morsel therein for even the most demanding of tastes.