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Impresario Sol Hurok once said, inimitably, "If the public doesn't want to come, you can't stop them." It's time for us to move past this, however, and a poorly attended concert at Meredith on November 5 provides the excuse to discuss our current dilemma. Why, one might wonder, would a beautifully-crafted program like this one draw so few people? Can it have anything to do with the day of the week, the artists, the offerings, the hall, the proximity of the event to election day, or any other rational thing or circumstance? Does the fact that the announcement of the concert appeared only in CVNC's calendar have anything to do with it? What gives?
Some have suggested that the program under discussion was plagued by its date and time, but Mondays have long been days on which concerts are given here. In the capital, at our schools, and 8:00 p.m. seems to work well for most people. There's nothing the matter with the artists who played on this occasion-NCCU-based cellist Timothy Holley figures prominently in our local pantheon, for he involves himself in solo engagements, chamber music and teaching, and he subs-frequently-with the NC Symphony; and Meredith-based pianist Mary Ann Heym has been a strong presence, too, since the week she arrived here. The program was exceptional, for it offered not only "standard" cello-&-piano fare by Boccherini, Beethoven and Debussy but also some tantalizing extras that turn up rarely, if at all, on area recitals-the "Meditation" from Hindemith's Nobilissima visione , four Chansons bretonnes by Koechlin, a Melodie by Frank Bridge (teacher of Benjamin Britten) and a set of five spirituals, effectively and idiomatically transcribed by Lawrence Brown. (It may be worth noting that your typical cello recitalist would probably have done the first batch or some comparable mainstream stuff from across three centuries and ignored the rest.) The venue-Carswell Recital Hall-is a bright room, one that is flattering to cellists, particularly, and one where many fine programs have been presented to enthusiastic audiences. Maybe the public was out electioneering? Not likely, given the apathy of Raleigh residents in recent campaigns. Publicity? Well, that may have been a problem, but perhaps it wasn't the only one. Too expensive? 'Twas free. And the Holley-Heym program was the only classical show in town that night. One wonders where all the music students were. One wonders where all the artists' pals were. One wonders where all the other critics were. One wonders-but wondering doesn't fill seats.
Still, those who were there - and there were about 27 souls on hand, not counting the two artists and the page turner - heard a fine program that was for the most part very nicely presented. Holley's intonation was sometimes off a bit, starting in the Hindemith (which was omitted from the printed program) and continuing into Boccherini's A Major Sonata. He had fewer and fewer problems as the evening progressed. Koechlin's lovely song settings, which resembled Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne, proved to be apt mood-setting introductions for Debussy's slightly earlier Sonate, in which Heym was a top-notch and full-fledged partner. Holley soared in the short Bridge selection, which was new to this listener. In Beethoven's Third Sonata, especially, there was often too much piano (although it may be worth remembering that the composer called his works in this form "Sonatas for Piano and Cello"). Heym took off like a house afire in the second movement, making it necessary for Holley to hustle in order to keep up with her. Brown's transcriptions of five Negro Folk Songs served as a fine conclusion for the recital and concurrently gave the whole event a set of-as it were-spiritual bookends, for the program had begun with one of the most serene compositions of our time. The uncredited notes, clearly by Holley himself, were outstanding. Holley does so much that one wonders how he fits everything into his schedule and still has time for family and friends. He and Heym were warmly applauded by a sparse crowd that included two other fine area cellists (which means that, counting Holley himself, cellists constituted 10% of the audience!).
We gotta do better at getting out the word-and getting out the music lovers. I'm tempted to say we should do this like we vote, but then even fewer would show up.