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Eduard Who?

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Last Friday night, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Christof Perick performed the music of Eduard Kunneke for the first time in the Q.C. -- and perhaps the New World in the new millennium. But the CSO Season Finale concert wasn't a journey into the final frontier of obscurity. It was actually a rare example of Perick Lite, for Kunneke's Dance Suite for Jazz Band and Orchestra was the dessert at the end of a smorgasbord that included Kurt Weill's "Suite from The Threepenny Opera," choice morsels from Mendelssohn's "Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream," and as an appetizer, Otto Nicolai's "Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Not only did maestro Perick program all these delectable lightweights, he deigned to introduce them! Just one problem with that. Performances, with a fascinating array of ensembles and instruments, thoroughly outshone the intros.

Musicians could give you the reason in one word: practice! To develop a rapport with an audience and achieve an easygoing relaxation with a microphone in your hand, you need to pick up the instrument more than once or twice a year.

With the Shakespeare tandem presented before intermission, we were hearing works that had been paired by Perick before at the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Been there, praised that. For it is written:

Every pastoral coloration of Otto Nicolai's "Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor" was present in the breezy opening. Nor did the sharpness of the orchestra evaporate when the overture released into a romping finale with dynamic shifts worthy of Rossini. Listening for progress from the orchestra, however, I was most impressed by the orchestral segments of Mendelssohn's "Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream." (Book of the Loaf: Vol. 19, No. 20)

In 2009, let's say that Midsummer and Merry Wives had neither progressed nor diminished since their 2005 conjurations. Forgive me, then, if I didn't receive these repeats with the same enthusiasm, though the heraldry of the brass in Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" probably scored a little higher on my thrill meter.

Enthusiasm filled the house for the Weill and overflowed for the Kunneke, vindicating Perick's decision to program it last. A little wariness wafts over our savvy subscribers when Maestro thins the ranks onstage to give his Mozart more authenticity, so there was consternation when the strings extended their mass coffee break after intermission. In their wake, the Threepenny suite was delivered by a combo that included banjo, accordion, drum kit, harp, and two saxes. Perick said that we would recognize other tunes besides "Mack the Knife," but even though we didn't (Christof really needs to get his passport stamped more often), the suite and its funky orchestration won us over.

Strings returned for the Dance Suite, so the two saxes moved further to stage right -- joined by a third saxophonist, all uncredited in the playbill. Excitement began peaking in the Intermezzo section, where the violins have a nice long melody line and the brass act as heavies in the orchestration. The strings truly brooded in the Valse melancolique, with incisive punctuations by the brass and a nice solo from concertmaster Calin Lupanu. The finale featured solos on tenor and soprano saxophone before the climactic orchestral build spiced with timpani and tambourine.

So it's Eduard Kunneke. With a U.

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