Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Classical C'Ville

I have to admit, this isn't quite the post I thought I'd be writing.

Last Wednesday I attended a Steve Reich concert at James Madison University. This past Saturday, I went to a concert by the Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra. As I remarked in a previous post, I was one of the oldest audience members in the Wednesday night concert, and I fully expected to be one of the youngest for the symphony's.

I was thankfully wrong. The Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra, perhaps because of its ties with the University of Virginia, attracts an interesting mix of people. There were certainly enough blue-hairs there, but there appeared to be just as many middle-aged folks and twenty-something students as well.

Three rows down from me an older gentleman snoozed through the Brahms First Piano Concerto, while just to the right of him a young man in his twenties sat on the edge of his seat, intently following the by-play between soloist and orchestra.

The symphony played very well -- especially for a group made up of professional, student and amateur players. The brass, wind, and percussion sections were especially strong, and the string section had a good ensemble sound.

Maestro Kate Tamarkin directed the orchestra with a surprising economy of gesture while delivering plenty of drama musically. I actually felt the audience jump when, with a crash, the orchestra launched into the finale of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." And pianist Andrew Armstrong looked like he was having fun as he and the orchestra romped through the Brahms concerto.

The audience loved it. At least in Charlottesville, Virginia, classical music isn't exclusively the domain of the very old.

Mozart wrote the Overture to the "Magic Flute" when he was 35;, Stravinsky the "Firebird" at age 28, and Brahms was 26 when his first piano concerto premiered. There were plenty of folks in that general age group Saturday to hear and enjoy their creative efforts.

Which is precisely how it should be.

- Ralph

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