CVNC‘s team of reviewers has tackled over 300 concerts during the past “Cultural Year.” It’s been difficult to sort out the gem quality from the rest, especially because there have been so many fine performances over the course of the year, and because we all attend different concerts and are unable to vote on all of them. Each CVNC reviewer was asked to pick the best concerts of the season and provide short annotations. For those of you who are considering how to apportion your classical entertainment budget in series tickets or singles, here’s the list, including links to the original reviews.

Elizabeth and Joe Kahn:

October 30, 2001: Violinist Andrew Manze demonstrated the “Stylus Phantasticus,” Baroque bravura at its wildest. Yes, Baroque violinists can play and stay in tune. His playing packed an emotional wallop, too, that would have made the Romantics blush. Paganini, eat your heart out!

January 29, 2002: Radu Lupu, in a challenging program of one of the most thoughtful and sensitive piano performances we have heard in a very long time.

February 24, 2002: Musicians from Marlboro – Chamber music at its utmost best. Ten players demonstrating a breathtaking musical and technical finesse.

March 17, 2002: Music of Spain’s Golden Age. The Waverly Consort gave one of the most elaborate and entertaining programs in the annals of recent early music programs. Splendid performances of the music and culture of a little remembered period in Western history were varied and interesting.

John W. Lambert:

To a certain extent, this year’s picks (given in chronological order) reflect our changed – and changing – environment and to a much greater extent than in previous years encompass presentations that drew large crowds and involved music that was heard in new ways. At the end, we’ll toss in two special mentions.

September 30, 2001: Music, Memory and Healing*: Mozart: Requiem. Soloists, massed choirs and orchestra, Rodney Wynkoop, conductor.
This concert, heard by an overflow crowd, satisfied our musical and spiritual needs during one of our nation’s darkest and most traumatic hours. Only Wynkoop could have arranged it so soon after 9/11, for only Wynkoop had (and has) at his beck and call the requisite choral forces and the clout to line up the other participants.
[*NOTE: This Duke Chapel concert may be seen and heard online: go to, click on “Music” (under “Programs” in the banner on the left side), click on the fifth option (“Hear…”) at the bottom of the page, and then select “PLAY” in the third section of the table. (RealPlayer is required.)]

March 18-19, 2002: NCSU’s Computer Music Festival. New music by a host of folks, realized by living musicians and machines. NCSU’s resident composer Rodney Waschka II has been stirring the proverbial pot here for a long time, making various musics that some folks still call noise, but he outdid himself with this two-day festival, at which many of our leading specialists and more than a few promising up-and-comers in this highly specialized field were on hand in Raleigh to present and discuss their works. The headliners were F. Gerard Errante, clarinet, and composer Larry Austin, whose restoration and expansion of a work by John Cage will linger long in our memory.

April 4, 2002: Curry Leads Final NCS Concert in Ol’ Memorial Hall. Music by Giovanni Gabrieli, Vaughan Williams, Wagner and Mendelssohn. Day in, day out, the best conductor based here in the Triangle (if not in the entire state) is William Henry Curry, who is the only maestro who consistently gets the NC Symphony to play like the great ensemble it can be when the chemistry’s just right…. For this last appearance of our state orchestra in UNC’s venerable Memorial Hall, which was soon thereafter shuttered for renovations, the spotlight shone on the music, and the performances exceeded all our expectations.

April 26-27, 2002: UNC Reexamines Stravinsky. A festival devoted to the great 20th-century composer’s music, performed by various UNC faculty and student artists and groups and discussed by distinguished scholars including Tim Carter. This big Stravinsky Fête signaled two milestones – UNC’s largest-ever event devoted to a single composer and a public reaffirmation of the firm ties between musicology and performance at the flagship institution of our consolidated University. Performances by the UNC Wind Ensemble, Carolina Choir, UNC Symphony Orchestra, and diverse solo and chamber groups set new standards in the hallowed halls of Hill and Person.

June 6-8, 2002: UNCG Focuses on Beethoven: Beethoven: Keyboard sonatas and other works. Andrew Willis, John Salmon, Malcolm Bilson and others. Simply the best – music by the master, performed by master artists in a setting that focused (literally and figuratively) on Beethoven’s genius. John Salmon was the event’s organizing genius, which doesn’t put him in Beethoven’s category but earns him special praise, nonetheless.

This year’s award of special merit goes to the Ciompi Quartet for its recently-concluded “season of premieres,” which involved a new work on every subscription program, covered by diverse CVNC critics in September, November, February and April. The scores were composed by Malcolm Peyton, Sidney Marquez Boquiren, Peter Sculthorpe (whose Quartet No. 8 received what was almost certainly its NC premiere, replacing a work by Anthony Kelley that will be heard in the forthcoming season) and Nathaniel Stookey, respectively.

And this year’s first runner up is… Bishop and baritone Robert E. Lee, heard at Meredith on August 24, 2001, in a recital accompanied by Kent Lyman. He’s an amateur who gave new and definitely exalted meaning to the much abused term during his program of music by Copland, Schumann, Fauré, Ravel, Leoncavallo, Bizet and lighter fare.

Richard Parsons:

December 9, 2001: Arcus’ Flentrop Anniversary Recital. Music by David Arcus (world premiere) and others, performed by David Arcus, organ. This is a tough call since Arcus gave not one but two remarkable recitals this year, using in turn both of Duke Chapel’s large organs. In the final analysis, this Flentrop program trumped the Æolian one on June 2 (reviewed by our colleague Marvin J. Ward) because its centerpiece was a new work played by the composer himself, whereas at the later program, the world premiere work was by someone else.

William Thomas Walker:

The significant milestone of the 25th anniversary of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. (May 26-June 9, 2001) motivated us to attend most of the musical events of the two-week-long world-class arts festival. An exhaustive overview of both the main festival and the Charleston-sponsored Piccolo Spoleto Festival gives a sense of the breadth of this treasure in the charming historical district of Charleston, S.C., a mere five hours’ drive from the Triangle.

It is impossible to choose between three unique regional opera performances. The juxtaposition of two late Verdi operas, the GOC’s Otello on November 2, 2001, and UNC-G’s concert Falstaff on November 9, 2001, was stimulating. UNC-G’s Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte on April 1, 2002, featured positive creative direction and a perfect Queen of the Night.

Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s April 4, 2002, performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the GSO was as involving as chamber music and his presence among the candidates to succeed Stuart Malina as GSO Music Director is intriguing.

During their April 8, 2002, masterclass at Duke, the Borromeo String Quartet unveiled a joyous Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue.

Dmitri Vorobiev, a School of the Arts staff accompanist, made that old warhorse, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, seem freshly minted on May 18, 2002.

Marvin J. Ward:

Local Artists:

April 21, 2002: Raleigh Civic Symphony/Randolph Foy “Heroes” program with Jonathan Kramer, cello. Kudos are given to this group for its dedicated playing, and to its inspired and inspiring director for his creative programming and truly outstanding printed programs. Attending a performance like this is a musically, emotionally and intellectually rewarding experience. I selected this one because I covered it; the other three (including two by the Chamber Orchestra) which I also attended could qualify for the same kudos.

June 11, 2002: Mallarmé Chamber Players at the Duke 2002 Summer Music Festival. The harp was the centerpiece, in various configurations with flute, viola and cello, in an evening of delightful music by mostly 20th century composers that is rarely heard, and that was exquisitely played. Jonathan Kramer was the cellist for the evening, and as in the above performance, his oral commentary to the audience deserves commendation.

Visiting Artists:

March 3, 2002: Denyce Graves/Warren Jones recital. A phenomenal partnership; Jones blew me (and a number of others) away with his expert collaborative pianism to help Graves deliver the goods that she is known for, and some lesser known, all-too-neglected music that she rightfully seems to be championing, together with the rarely performed (these days, anyway) Sea Pictures by Elgar.

April 15, 2002: Susan Chan piano recital. Fascinating and lovely new music by composers of Asian descent, coupled with a standard-classic piece and a transcription that is more interesting than the original, were all delivered with precise, sensitive, and delicately nuanced playing for a memorable evening. Some of the pieces are available on an equally fine CD, allowing me to relive the experience.

Music and More:

April 25, 2002: Long Leaf Opera’s production of Menotti’s The Medium. Brilliantly cast and staged, tho’ Litz Plummer appropriately stole the show. The best the company’s done to date. Will it continue on its upward climb?

May 16, 2002: Carolina Ballet’s Firebird. The eclectic season finale concluded with a spectacularly staged, costumed, and danced version of the orchestral suite from this brilliant showpiece. Will it be expanded into the full ballet in a future season?

Outside the Triangle but within striking distance:

January 14, 2002: Susan Graham/Iain Burnside recital at Wingate University. A gem of an evening featured a program that displayed a representative sample of Graham’s talents, including repertoire in which she has deservedly earned accolades and awards, in a beautifully and entertainingly smooth first outing with an outstanding collaborative artist who is, alas, undeservedly not as well known on this side of the pond as in the British Isles.