Emceeing A Night in New York, the latest in Charlotte Symphony's series of KnightSounds concerts, musical director Christopher Warren-Green wasn't the only big man in the orchestra. Thanks to a big-screen Plazacast at the intersection of South Tryon Street and Levine Avenue of the Arts, all the Symphony musicians playing in Knight Theater were bigger than life for the crowd of about 200 taking in the music outdoors, sitting on folding chairs, loitering on the sidewalk, or taking advantage of numerous cocktail tables and chairs in the Mint Museum's plaza.
Biggest of all the Symphony musicians on this night was Gene Kavadlo, celebrating his 40th season as principal clarinetist with the orchestra. He premiered a new orchestration commissioned for the occasion. Taking five parts of Lev Kogan's Hassidic Tunes for Clarinet and Piano, local klezmer maven Alan Kaufman made them bigger than life, orchestrating them into Klezmer Dances for Clarinet, Strings, Percussion, and Tuba. So there was Kavadlo on the big screen alongside the famed Niki de Saint Phalle Firebird in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, tweedling the new music with klezmer cadenzas he himself had composed to preface and connect the tunes. At times, Kavadlo loomed as large as the iconic sculpture.
Preceding the premiere were a couple of pieces by Leonard Bernstein to put audiences indoors and out in a New York state of mind, the "Overture to West Side Story" and "Three Dance Episodes from On the Town." Adding extra telegenic flair to the KnightSounds presentation, members of Charlotte Ballet II danced Mark Diamond's new choreography for the On the Town suite. After the klezmer segment, Phillip Bush took the spotlight, presiding at the piano for George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Kavadlo didn't totally recede from view, getting additional screen time for the famed clarinet glissando that opens the piece. Treated to the finer indoor acoustics of the Knight, the paying audience wasn't cheated out of the evening's video delights, for a second big screen hung over the Symphony throughout the concert. Utilizing four strategically placed cameramen plus a robotic location at the rear of the stage facing Warren-Green, video production was worthy of the polished musical performance.
Encore? On Friday night, it was Bernstein's "Overture to Candide." Next season, it will be a brand new Plazacast.