Winter swept out of Salisbury with a Fifth of Beethoven

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 2, 2014

The North Carolina Symphony came to town Friday night, presented by the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Society. The symphony performed a concert titled “Beethoven’s Fifth” in Keppel Auditorium on the Catawba College campus.
This Beethoven heavyweight may have drawn concert goers for a tour de force, but the first half of the program proved to be equally satisfying as a tour of exquisite baroque and classical styles.
Conductor William Henry Curry opened the program with three selections from the opera Orpheus and Euridice by C.W. Gluck from 1762. 
 In the Overture, strings and winds tossed baroque turns back and forth with crystal clear precision.  The second excerpt, “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” is one of the most lovely melodies ever written, and the best known music from this opera.  
Many music students get a crack at it in their beginning solo books when learning how to mold phrases and produce sweet sound.  
Curry molded lovely phrases with a light lilting touch and impressive range of dynamics. The solo flute played the famous melody with mournful sweetness.  
The third excerpt, “Dance of the Furies” conjured up as much Sturm und Drang within Baroque confines as is possible.  
The second selection for this reduced orchestra was “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Cello, Oboe, Bassoon, and Orchestra” by Joseph Haydn. Violinist David Freidlander, cellist Bonnie Thron, oboist Melanie Wilsden and bassoonist John Pederson were the soloists. Each performed with the polish and  virtuosity demanded by Haydn’s challenging parts. Violinist Freidlander, associate concertmaster, led with easy elegance.  
If cellist Thron had been better placed on stage, perhaps her sound  would have projected as well as the other soloists. All four principals bring a high level of artistry and technical mastery to the North Carolina Symphony.
Winter was swept right out of Salisbury as Curry and the North Carolina Symphony brought Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to life.  With so many commercial clichés born of this warhorse, it’s important to hear the real thing once in a while. Beethoven packed his Fifth with the full gamut of emotions.
The opening motif, perhaps the most heard of any classical theme, was not toyed with by Curry.
No pulling, stretching or ringing out is required in this masterful composition. The entire work was nobly presented by Curry and the symphony with insight and purpose.
In the Andante, the cello section erased all thoughts of inclement weather with their soft and breezy variation. Curry held the Scherzo taut and precise. The finale, “Allegro con Spirit“ was as good as it gets.  
The North Carolina Symphony was truly worthy of the warm standing ovation it received.