Orchestral Music Review Print

Moody Steers the Winston-Salem Symphony across Mercurial Seas

February 11, 2007 - Winston-Salem, NC:

A large Sunday matinee audience in Stevens Center heard Music Director Robert Moody lead the Winston-Salem Symphony in one of the most imaginative single-theme programs presented in decades. His focus was the sea, and the four composers chosen were Wagner (1813-83), Handel (1685-1759), Britten (1913-76), and Debussy (1862-1918).

When I reviewed Moody’s first gala concert with the orchestra, on September 9, 2005, my only reservation was about strings versus brass balance. This was my first chance to hear the orchestra since then.

Full surging strings and soaring brass conjured up the maelstrom in the stirring Overture to Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman. Orchestra sections played with excellent unanimity and any balance reservations vanished when the trombones entered and the strings remained clearly audible. Bravo!

Moody selected two movements from Suite I and five movements from Suite II of Handel’s Water Music. The reduced orchestra string sections played with crisp articulation and the horns were beautifully buoyant. Wake Forest University music professor Peter Kairoff played the un-amplified harpsichord continuo, and it was readily heard from a seat in the very back of the balcony. The interplay between antiphonal horns and piccolo trumpets — played by Frederick Bergstone and Robert Campbell, and by Timothy Hudson and Anita Cirba, respectively — was brilliant and thrilling.

Britten’s sound paintings of the sea at different times of day, the "Four Sea Interludes" from his opera Peter Grimes, are brilliant, and Moody and his musicians brought out every element of the composer’s musical canvass.

Only a fleeting intonation discrepancy during the opening bars marred an otherwise fine standard interpretation of Debussy’s wonderful La Mer.

Moody hinted at an even more exciting 2007-8 season, with a yet-to-be-announced star soloist for the gala concert and with the addition of Handel’s Messiah to be performed in a local church. The conductor was a very active choral director when he was at the Brevard Music Festival. The symphony’s next concert will feature Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. See CVNC's Triad calendar for details of the March concert.