When you are sitting in Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College and you are transported first to New York, then Berlin, and finally to Vienna, you know that there is magic in the air! That is exactly what the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and Music Director David Hagy did in a concert titled “Two Doubles and Three B’s.” “Two Doubles” stands for two double concertos, and “Three B’s,” or course, refers to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Calling the concert “A Family Affair” would have also been apt, as each of the concertos featured family members: husband and wife duo Joe and Mary Kay Robinson in Bach’s Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Strings in C minor, and son and father, Dan and Bill Skidmore, in Brahms’ Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102.

First to New York, as Joe Robinson was Principal Oboe in the New York Philharmonic for twenty-seven years and Mary Kay played in the violin section for a number of years. The original score for the Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Strings in C minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) had been lost by the time of the composer’s death and was later reconstructed from the identical concerto for two harpsichords. In each of the three movements, the soloists weave their themes back and forth and with the orchestra. Mr. Robinson played an oboe that he has never before played in public. Its tone is somewhat mellower than his customary instrument, and it provided a lovely sound for this performance and blended beautifully with Mrs. Robinson’s splendid violin playing. The chamber-size orchestra provided superb collaboration, both as an accompanist and in carrying its share of the melodic line.

On to Berlin, and Johannes Brahms’ (1833-97) Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102. Dan Skidmore, the violin soloist, holds a Doctorate of Music in violin from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is Concertmaster of the Salisbury Symphony and Assistant Concertmaster of the Winston-Salem Symphony. His father, Bill Skidmore, has been a member of the cello section of the Baltimore Symphony and is currently Professor of Cello at West Virginia University. This performance was every bit as exciting as my recording of the work with David Oistrakh, violin, Mstislav Rostropovich, cello, and the Berlin Philharmonic. The solo instruments exchange melodic ideas throughout the entire work and weave their lines in and out of the orchestra’s own themes. The soloists’ playing was absolutely stunning and brought tears to my eyes, a comment I also overheard from several nearby audience members. The full orchestra played the lush, full textures of Brahms’ music with great beauty and style.

Finally, to Vienna and Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), written, along with the seventh symphony, in 1812. This symphony, in the standard four movements, is more lighthearted than some of his others, but it is not without drama or surprise. This performance was crisp, accurate, and full of vitality and life. The musicians obviously took great joy in playing this work and great pride in their first-class accomplishment. Their effort was abundantly rewarded by the audience with its applause.

When David Hagy took over as Music Director of the Salisbury Symphony some twenty years ago, the orchestra was rather “green” and inexperienced and had great difficulty performing even relatively easy works. They have now grown into a mature ensemble, capable of playing most of the orchestral literature with great beauty and artistic ability. This concert is ample evidence of that fact. This growth did not come overnight; it took the very hard work of a great many people. Not many small budget orchestras can boast this proud accomplishment, and all who are, or have been, involved in this spectacular transformation are to be congratulated. Keep up the good work!