The Raleigh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the versatile Jim Waddelow presented a strong program of popular classical music, pop music, and a winsome clarinet concertino featuring an outstanding student soloist.

Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor “From the New World” was composed in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. It was premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893 and was a triumph; it continues to be a favorite among both musicians and audiences. Dvořák claimed that the music was all original composition but was inspired by the spirit of Native American and Negro music. Leonard Bernstein pointed out that the symphony was truly multinational in its foundations with elements of Bohemian, German, and American influences.

The RSO very quickly captured the spirit and vigor of the first and fourth movements. This symphony provides opportunities for all orchestral sections to shine. The generous strings ranged from tender lyrical beauty, to powerful statements, to dizzying dances. The brass sang out heroically with warm power. The woodwinds added delightful charm with their rendition of Dvořák’s gay celebration.

There was notable solo work from most of the principal section leaders: Xi Yang, violin, Patty Harris, flute, Mary Greiner, oboe, and Austin Macdonald, French horn. Also, a note of commendation for the trumpets on their fanfare in the run-up to the final cadence: it cut through the full orchestra just enough to be thrilling.

The overall ensemble was crisp and clean with carefully balanced crescendos and diminuendos and crisp attacks and cutoffs. The performance emphasized the heroic character of these two movements and was just fine.

“Fiddle Faddle” is one of those jaunty pieces of classical pop that Arthur Fiedler made popular at the Boston Pops concerts in the 40’s and 50’s. Written in 2/2 time in classic “song-and-trio” form, it is based on the childhood nursery song “Three Blind Mice.” The RSO gave a dazzling performance, plucking up a storm in the middle section, followed by a delightful section featuring the trombones. It bore out the evidence of the fun it gave the orchestra to perform it, for it was surely fun to listen to it.

Carl Maria von Weber’s compositions for clarinet, bassoon, and horn occupy an important place in the musical repertoire and are regularly performed today. He wrote his Concertino for clarinet and orchestra in E-flat (1811) for Heinrich Bärmann, one of the most accomplished clarinetists of the day. It displays the instrument’s wide-ranging capabilities for both expressivity and virtuosic display. The work consists of three short movements that conform to the traditional organization of the solo concerto.

The soloist was Kristen Foster, a junior music major at Meredith College. She has been playing the clarinet since the sixth grade and studying privately since the ninth grade. She is currently a student of Jimmy Gilmore, retired principal clarinetist with the North Carolina Symphony.

Foster demonstrated her lyric capabilities in the opening sad song that develops along lines of an operatic aria. Breath control was a challenge through the elaborate variations that eventually made their way back to the original sad mood. Her artistic expression through well-controlled dynamics was impressive, and her management of the entire range of the instrument was outstanding. Technical skills in both runs and leaps demonstrated a well-prepared and practiced performer.

The RSO was molded, under Waddelow’s leadership, into a supportive accompanying partner. Contrasts and blends enhanced to achieve an altogether pleasant performance.

It was an enjoyable concert that demonstrated effectively the pleasures that a community orchestra and young performing artists can provide for all.

The Dvořák Symphony No. 9 in E minor will be reprised on the Sunday afternoon Raleigh Symphony Orchestra: “Rising Stars” concert at 3:00 pm in Jones Auditorium. See the sidebar for more details.