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It is an agreeable Sunday evening and you are in Jones Auditorium on the Meredith College campus. Close your eyes for a bit and listen as the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra launches into the long opening tutti of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D. What differences do you perceive between this group and various other more “elite” ensembles one encounters from time to time? You probably discover that any shortfall in refinement and precision generally proves subtle enough.
Assistant Concertmaster and violin soloist Yang Xi joined conductor Jim Waddelow to initiate the latter’s premiere season as Music Director for the orchestra. The dominant aforementioned concerto served as the vehicle to demonstrate the soloist’s possession of the technical prowess required for so imposing a work. (His bio entry quotes highest praise from no less an authority than Isaac Stern. It would be hard to improve on that.) At no point did he seem overly challenged, and the players’ strong support made evident their concentrated preparation. Xi rewarded the enthusiastic audience with a brief encore, Fritz Kreisler’s melodious “Liebeslied” as arranged for violin and orchestra.
Conductor Emeritus Alan Neilson began the evening by leading the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischutz. From the horns’ opening familiar “hymn” on through the festive and vigorous conclusion, both music and sound were on fine display.
Charles Gounod is said to have stalked out during the initial performance of Franck’s Symphony in D minor, so dreadful did he find its groundbreaking harmonies and lack thereof. It has since become such a staple item in the concert repertory that Waddelow very likely had no qualms about scheduling it for the second half of the program. The dark opening low string lines of the lento movement effectively introduced all the organ-like melodies to follow. The program notes pointed out the “cyclic form” of the work, wherein the players skillfully maintained that recurring theme throughout. Melancholy woodwinds joined the strings for a near-religious experience.
“Through its long tradition of reaching out into diverse communities through concerts; community partnerships; in-school and community education programs; and by providing opportunities for musicians, RSO is an integral part of Wake County and the Triangle.” Amen to this quotation from the organization’s brochure.