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Several of the principal chair players of the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, together with invited guests bass-baritone Bill Williams and pianist and composer Lanette Lind, presented a very interesting and well-planned program on the evening of March 16 in the Tabernacle Performance Hall of the Longview Center. Flutist Patty Angevine, violist Michael Castelo, Concertmistress Tasi Matthews, cellist Jane Salemson, clarinetist Jim Williams, and bassist Dan Zehr combined with their guests in various configurations as the evening progressed.
Williams and Lind opened the proceedings with a nice rendition of Schubert's "Die Forelle," D.550. Only a translation of the poem was provided in the program. Diction was good and the words, clearly enunciated. This led to a performance of two movements (there are five) of the "Trout" Quintet, D.667, that make the greatest use of the song melody, the first and third. The violist seemed to have a few intonation problems at the outset, but things soon settled down. I have heard renditions of the first movement that were more vivace than this one was, but it went quite nicely. The piano for the evening was a loaner Estonia from the Ruggero shop; its warm sound seemed especially "right" for this piece, particularly in the ripples and trills.
Closing the first half were two lovely songs by Richard Faith: "The Solitary Reaper," with flute, and "Ships," with cello accompaniment, both in addition to the piano. They are extracted from cycles dating from 1966 and 1975 respectively; it would have been nice to hear the full cycles. The second uses an English translation of the same poem Fauré set in "Vaissaux" in his L'horizon chimérique cycle. Hearing that song would have made an interesting comparison/contrast for the program. Williams did a fine job, even though they are written in the treble clef and thus a bit high for his register. Enunciation was again excellent. No texts were provided, but the poets were credited in the notes, which were generally good, with brief comments about the composers and the works and short bios of the artists.
Lind opened the second half with a nice performance of Prokofiev's Second Sonata, Op. 14, dating from 1912. The piano also seemed good for this more modern, tense and nervous sort of piece, although the playing was at times a bit loud for the hall. The program notes referred to it as "a study in contrasts," the movements ranging from somber to playful, sad to exuberant. This was followed by an uncredited arrangement for flute and piano of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" that made for a nice change of pace and mood. The performance was lyrical and relaxing.
Khatchaturian's Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano dating from 1932 brought the evening to an exciting close. This piece, perhaps the most unfamiliar on the program other than the Faith songs, brought us, with its Armenian folk tunes, dance melodies and rhythms, and variations thereon, full circle to the opening pair of works. Ensemble was good here, as it was throughout the evening in all of the player configurations. Thanks to RSO for expanding its offerings in this direction! It hopes to present three chamber recitals next year.
There was a bit of exterior competition from the St. Patrick's Day celebration already under way in Moore Square. This reviewer will never understand why every festive event MUST be accompanied by overly loud, over-amplified sound, . er, noise pollution. Where's the consideration for others? Nonetheless, the lovely sounds of the music on the program filled the hall and, from where I sat, at least, covered the interference. The acoustic here is quite good, on the whole, for this type of music. There is a good blend, yet you can still hear the voices of the individual instruments, although the vocal soloist's voice did not ring out as well as I had expected-no fault of his, for it is in no way weak, but perhaps due to the enormous quantity of carpet throughout the hall.
This was the last performance in this space before it closes for renovations. The choir loft behind where the altar formerly stood will be removed, along with the baptismal font in the rear of the present raised area, and the stage will be expanded back to the Person Street exterior wall. The original stained glass windows in the walls have already been replaced by tasteful new ones that match each other and are in keeping with the period and style of the building. The round window over the stage features a conductor. The electricity will be reworked, hopefully allowing dimming of house lights which now are either on or off, and providing better stage lighting so the musicians can read their music without the tangle of wires now necessary for lamps on their stands. Perhaps the stage area itself will have an uncarpeted hardwood floor to help the sound? Perhaps an acoustician will be brought in to suggest other tweaks? Thanks to Gordon Smith for his Longview vision and for adding another performance venue to Raleigh's options that is good and yet different from the others.