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Conservative Precision at the North Carolina Symphony

The North Carolina Symphony played for an appreciative nearly full house Saturday night at Meymandi Music Hall in Raleigh.

The program featuring Ludwig Van Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 opened with a zippy allegro by Edward Elgar, followed by Concerto No.25 in C Major for Piano and Orchestra, K.503 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Pianist Irina Zahharenkova joined the North Carolina Symphony and her contribution was truly the highlight of the program. The ease with which her fingers hopped across the piano could be seen as well as heard through the fast runs up and down the keyboard. Mozart’s Concerto felt exactly right: lighthearted, careless, with an accidental orderliness. The music, true to Mozart, danced around within a well-defined space, and although the music never extended outside of that framed space, no space within the frame was left uncovered.

I listened expectantly to be moved by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. In my car listening to a CD, on my sofa watching YouTube, wherever, there is nothing that will take away my thoughts and force me into the moment like a Beethoven symphony. I was on the front row of the lower balcony as the North Carolina Symphony played, where the grandeur of this grand symphony never quite reached. The thematic repetition and variation of Beethoven built suspense; a melody brewed under the quiet hum of strings. The resulting climax of this suspense should have been inevitable. The value of low brass and its potential to add dimension and bring this climax over the top may have been underestimated by music director Grant Llewellyn. Strings overpowered brass and their quiet hum, without the dynamics brass would bring, began to sound like white noise.

In the most moving performances of classical music, it is difficult to separate the music from the musician, as if the players become possessed by the composition. The North Carolina Symphony played a conservative rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. This approach may appeal to classical music aficionados, but isn’t likely to sway a reluctant fan.

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