Coping with crisisThe Charlotte Symphony, led by music director Christopher Warren-Green, served up an evening of Beethoven and Schubert fare Saturday night. Guest violinist Nathan Meltzer was the fine soloist for the two Romances for Violin, Op. 40, in G, and Op. 50, in F, by Ludwig van Beethoven (Germany, 1770-1827). The congenial Symphony No. 5, in B-flat, D. 485 (1816) by Franz Schubert (Austria, 1797-1828) closed out the concert.

Christopher James-Lees, Resident Conductor, presented some introductory remarks before each of the two sets. This particular concert in the Classical Series: Reimagined, which was recorded in February, with all musicians (except the winds and brass) wearing masks, served as a reminder to all as to how far we have come with vaccinations in just three months.

All three works on the program employ the same orchestration, which also happens to be the smallest of all Schubert’s symphonies: one flute, two each oboes, bassoons, and horns as well as strings. Both Romances are a single movement and are marked with the same tempo marking, “Adagio Cantabile.”  

The Romance in G, a rondo, begins with the soloist without accompaniment, playing the main tune, which employed several double stops. It was clear from the initial silken tones from Meltzer (who was playing without a score), that this recipient of the 2020 Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant, and youngest ever to win the Windsor Festival International String Competition, has a long career ahead of him.

The back and forth between the soloist and orchestra characterizes most of the piece. Refinement and elegance are the key ingredients, and Meltzer was very much at home in this atmosphere.

The second Romance followed immediately without anyone leaving the stage. This piece is very much about lyricism, and the soloist’s sensitive and gentle playing brought that to the fore – not that the violinist’s playing of the few and far-between dramatic moments were not moving as well. Throughout, both soloist and conductor stayed in close communication, which resulted in excellent ensemble. It’s so weird not having an audience.

Between sets, Lees pointed out Schubert ‘s infusion of his renowned lyricism (as seen in his songs) into his orchestral repertoire. He also acknowledged the profound influence W.A. Mozart (Austria, 1756-91) had on the composer, especially his 40th Symphony in G minor, which has the same orchestration as all three pieces on the docket that night.

Warren-Green, now himself working without a score, clearly brought forth Schubert’s scurrying, infectious tune that comes after the short introduction. Soon the the full orchestra enters with drama, forcefully served up by the CSO.

The second movement continues the lyric characteristics of the first, but with some unexpected forays into some strange keys, brought out easily and effectively by the orchestra. Warren-Greens’ easy conducting style helped bring the graceful front and center.

Nowhere is Mozart’s influence more pronounced than in the Minuet (which is in G minor, the same key of Mozart’s 40th Symphony). The opening “rocket” theme curiously resembles Mozart’s minus the syncopation. The trio of the third movement is distinguished by the prominent role of the bassoon, unerringly played by principal Olivia Oh.

The affable main theme of the final movement is interrupted by storm clouds (minor keys), which only makes the return to major sunnier. A solid ending brought the entire 30-minute piece to a warm conclusion.