Sound of Charlotte Blog

A guide to Holst's The Planets

Holst's The Planets is colorful, emotional, and full of movement exactly what you'd expect from a trip through the galaxies and beyond. Written between 1914-1916, The Planets represents all the known planets and their corresponding astrological characters. Learn more about the movements from Classic FM below.

Buy tickets


1. Mars, the Bringer of War

Angry and ominous, Holst's first movement represents the Roman god of war, Mars. The craggy rhythms and pulsing drum beats give the music a military feel.




2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace

The cool blue Venus follows angry red Mars. The music is slower and beautifully eerie, complete with relaxing tunes played on harps and flutes, shimmering strings, and ethereal solo violin passages to call to mind the Roman goddess.



3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger

Flighty and fast, the lively Mercury is quick and powerful in equal measure. The high-pitched harp, flute, and glockenspiel tunes hop, skip, and jump throughout the suite's short duration usually just over four minutes.




4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

As the round-faced cheery uncle of all the planets, and king of the gods, Jupiter is impressive and majestic. The swelling brass and slow waltzing strings are met with moments of poignant beauty in the glorious tune now known as 'I Vow to Thee My Country'.



5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age

A favourite movement of Holst's, Saturn is quite a shift from the positive music heard in Jupiter. The opening is slow and almost unsettling, until the music expands into a heavy march.




6. Uranus, the Magician

Starting with four brassy notes, Uranus shifts from heavy timpani blows to a boisterous gallop. The full orchestra shows the impressive power of this icy planet, represented in Greek mythology as the god of the sky.




7. Neptune, the Mystic

When Holst scored this work as a piece for piano duet, he used an organ to represent this planet the piano, he thought, couldn't portray a planet as mysterious as Neptune. Beautiful harp and string melodies slide over each other, until Holst brings out the crowning glory: a mystical choir, which gives the music an other-worldly quality.



Listen on Spotify now!:


Read more

Meet our Guest: Sergej Krylov

Violinist Sergej Krylov joins us for Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony on November 2 & 3. 

Effervescent musicianship, intense lyricism and beguiling tonal beauty belong to the qualities that have secured Sergei Krylov's place among today's most renowned performers. The Russian-born violinist directs breath-taking virtuosity to reveal profound expressive insights into the works in his strikingly broad repertoire.
 
'Krylov articulated concisely, with humour, sometimes incisive but never defiant,' observed DiePresse.com following a recent performance of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto. Other commentators have praised the intelligence, imagination and intuitive power of his musicianship.
 
In recent seasons Sergei Krylov has become a regular guest with several major institutions and collaborated with many of the world's leading orchestras. He has appeared with, among others, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the St Petersburg Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, the Russian National Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Filarmonica della Scala and Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, DSO Berlin, the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin, Budapest Festival Orchestra, NHK Symphony Tokyo and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
 
Among the prominent personalities with whom he has worked, Krylov's friendship with Mstislav Rostropovich stands among the most important influences on his artistic life. Over the past decade he has collaborated with many leading conductors, from Dmitri Kitayenko, Mikhail Pletnev, Valery Gergiev, Andrey Boreyko, Vasily Petrenko and Vladimir Jurowski to Fabio Luisi, Roberto Abbado, Yuri Temirkanov, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dmitry Liss, Yuri Bashmet and Michał Nesterowicz.
 
Highlights of Sergei Krylov's 2017/18 season included Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko, Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin and Dmitri Kitayenko, and performances with the Russian National Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Turin's Rai Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo, Naples.

Read more

Meet our Guest: Roberto Abbado

Conductor Roberto Abbado joins us for Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony on November 2 & 3. 

Roberto Abbado, awarded the prestigious "Premio Abbiati" by the Italian Music Critics Association for his "accomplished interpretative maturity, the extent and the peculiarity of a repertoire where he has offered remarkable results through an intense season", is Musical Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia and of Parma's Festival Verdi. He studied orchestra conducting under Franco Ferrara at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he was invited the only student in the history of the Academy to lead the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia. He made his debut in the United States in 1991 in New York conducting the St. Luke's Orchestra. Since then he has returned regularly to the US to lead the Symphonic Orchestras of the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra of which he is one of the "Artistic Partners" working with soloists like Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Nigel Kennedy, Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang, Yefim Bronfman, Mitsuko Uchida, Alfred Brendel, Radu Lupu, André Watts, Andras Schiff, Lang-Lang, and Katia and Marielle Labèque.

He was Musical Director of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester from 1991 to 1998, completing seven album recordings with the orchestra. He has worked with many ensembles, including Amsterdam's Concertgebouworkest, the Wiener Symphoniker, the Orchestre national de France, the Orchestre de Paris, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Gewandhausorchester (Leipzig), the NDR Sinfonieorchester (Hamburg), the Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester (Stockholm), the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, the Filarmonica della Scala, the Orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.

Roberto Abbado has conducted numerous world premieres and new opera productions, including Fedora and Ernani at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York; I vespri sicilianiat the Wiener Staatsoper; La GiocondaLucia di Lammermoor, La donna del lago, and the world premiere of Fabio Vacchi's Teneke at La Scala; L'amour des trois oranges, Aida, and La traviata at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Le Comte Ory, Attila, I Lombardi alla prima crociata, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Henze's Phaedra at its Italian premiere and Anna Bolena at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; Simon Boccanegra, and La clemenza di Tito at the Teatro Regio of Turin; La donna del lago at the Opéra Garnier in Paris; Ermione, Zelmira, and Mosè in Egitto at the Rossini Opera Festival; the Italian premiere of Marschner's Der Vampyr at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna.

A passionate interpreter of contemporary music, Abbado's repertoire includes composers like Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Goffredo Petrassi, Sylvano Bussotti, Niccolò Castiglioni, Azio Corghi, Ivan Fedele, Luca Francesconi, Giorgio Battistelli, Michele dall'Ongaro, Giacomo Manzoni, Salvatore Sciarrino, Fabio Vacchi, Pascal Dusapin, Henri Dutilleux, Olivier Messiaen, Alfred Schnittke, Hans Werner Henze, Helmut Lachenmann, John Adams, Ned Rorem, Christopher Rouse, Steven Stucky, and Charles Wuorinen.
... Read more

Get to know the Broadway Singers for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More

         

From Broadway to Charlotte

We caught up with our three soloists for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More, Morgan James, Hugh Panaro, and Debbie Gravitte. Each brings his or her own special Broadway experience to the Charlotte stage. 

CSO: So, have you guys ever been to Charlotte? If not, what are you most excited for duing your visit?

MJ: I was in Charlotte last fall with my band. I always love coming through and I'm excited to make some new fans, and eat some great food!

DG: You bet! My husband was born in Goldsboro. We have family all over the area, who will be attending the show, and we vacation every year on Ocracoke. Can't wait!

HP: I don't think the airport counts so I'm pretty sure this will be my first time performing in Charlotte!  I have performed in Garner twice with my solo show. But there's nothing like singing with a Symphomy orchestra and I've already heard great things!  I'm also a HUGE  "foodie,"  so I can't wait to eat my way through Charlotte! 

CSO: How many shows were you in?

HP: Wow, I don't know!  I started acting professionally when I was 13 years old as Friedrich Von Trapp in The Sound of Music so I had already been in at least 13  productions before making my Broadway debut as Marius in Les Miserables. And here I am all these years later and I STILL get the same joy from performing! 

DG: This is a trick question for me. Whether it's the Broadway stage, a movie set, a television set, a nightclub or a Symphony Hall, it's all performance! I have been lucky to be in 8 Broadway shows and numerous other productions. 

MJ: I've been working on stage in some capacity for 20 years. I did four original companies on Broadway, and countless readings, workshops, and regional productions.

CSO: Hugh, what was it like performing in Phantom of the Opera, first as Raoul, then coming back to play Phantom years later?

HP: I loved playing both roles!  I think I was cast in the right roles at the right time. Hal Prince cast me as Raoul in my early 20's and I was kind of an impetuous "puppy" with a lot of energy and confidence. I don't think I had the "weight" or life experience to play the Phantom back then. Going back to play the Phantom many years later I had a lot more life experience to draw from so that I could fully embody a more complex character  Every experience we have hopefully helps us grow and allows us the opportunity to bring more of ourselves to a role.

CSO: Morgan, What was the stage show that has most influenced you and how has that shaped you as an artist?

MJ: I did a production of hair 10 years ago that really shaped me. It was one of my favorite leading roles out of town, right before I got my first Broadway show, and I think I really grew as an artist and became a true leader. I'm very grateful for my years of doing regional theater and learning how to be a leading lady out of town. 

CSO: Debbie, Being that you have performed with over 175 orchestras, what is your favorite aspect of performing for Symphony audiences?

DG: Every Symphony performance is different depending on the city it takes place!  

Join us at The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More and hear Hugh, Morgan, and Debbie in person!

More Info Here






Read more

Garrick Ohlsson returns to Charlotte

Joining us in the Queen City for the third time, the legendary pianist Garrick Ohlsson will perform Beethoven's innovative and virtuosic Fourth Piano Concerto at Beethoven's Fifth, October 5-7.

Buy tickets

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Although long regarded as one of the world's leading exponents of the music of Chopin, Mr. Ohlsson commands an enormous repertoire ranging over the entire piano literature and he has come to be noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire.

To date he has at his command more than 80 concertos, ranging from Haydn and Mozart to works of the 21st century.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Garrick Ohlsson began his piano studies at the age of 8, at the Westchester Conservatory of Music; at 13 he entered The Juilliard School, in New York City. He has been awarded first prizes in the Busoni and Montreal Piano competitions, the Gold Medal at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (1970), the Avery Fisher Prize (1994), the University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, MI (1998), and the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music (2014).  Read more

Get to know Broadway sensation Michael Cavanaugh

Grammy- and Tony- nominated artist Michael Cavanaugh joins us on September 28 & 29 to kick off our Pops series with The Music of Elton John and More. Get to know the Piano Man behind the music below.

Buy tickets

1. At age 7, Michael's parents bought their first piano and he began to play. Encouraged by family and friends, he formed his first band at age 10.

2.  In 2001 at a performance in Las Vegas, Billy Joel discovered Michael's vast talents and joined him on stage. Afterward, he invited Michael to join him in creating the Broadway musical Movin' Out.

3. Michael was nominated for Tony and Grammy Awards for his work on Movin' Out.

4. After Movin' Out closed in 2005, Michael began touring and quickly became one of the hottest artists in the private events market. He continues to perform worldwide for company and charity events, and at sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Indy 500.

5. In 2008, Michael debuted his first performance with symphony orchestras, The Songs of Billy Joel and More. He soon followed that up with the debut of The Music of Elton John and More in 2010.

BUY TICKETS Read more

Nkeiru Okoye on Composing Charlotte Mecklenburg

Approaching a newly commissioned piece, I start by listening. I want the know everything:  What's the occasion, and what's the purpose behind it? What are the goals for the piece? What I'm doing by asking these questions is defining basic parameters: length and instrumentations the specific instruments you want to use.
 
But I'm also gathering background information that helps me to create a piece that works for the community. The more descriptive, the better. It helps me understand what's important, which helps sets up my mindset as I'm conceptualizing the piece.
 
With Charlotte Mecklenburg, my new piece for the Charlotte Symphony, a special request in this case was that all the music was to have been inspired by a residency, which meant that I wouldn't write a note or start thinking about concepts until I'd gotten acquainted with the city. 
 
During my four-day residency, I did just that. Enjoying great cuisine, visiting different neighborhoods, guided tours of exhibits at the Levine Museum of the New South, catching a panoramic view of the city through from way up in the Bank of America building. Meanwhile, the Symphony had arranged for me to meet and interview 12 people, from Hugh McColl to Dae-Lee, all of whom impacted the city in differing ways, and all provided answers to five questions that I'd created with the new piece in mind. The visit ended, with a live outdoor performance of the Charlotte Symphony.
 
After getting back, it was time to engage in two of my favorite activities, for starting new compositions brainstorming ideas and organizing them into digital scrapbooks. I compiled answers to my questionnaire and conversation notes and made a general plan of the composition based on the parameters and visit. A piece like this involved some research. By exploring Charlotte's history, cultures, and current events, I was establishing an expansive knowledge bank of ideas. 

Contributed by Nkeiru Okoye, composer.

Read more

How a Violinist is like a Pro Athlete

If you've ever seen Joshua Bell perform live, you'll understand just how much stamina and sheer power goes into every performance. Here, we pick Joshua Bell's brain on the athleticism behind his performances.
 
CSO: First of all, we've heard that you lose weight every time you perform?
JB: Yes! I'm quite physical when I play, so it's quite good exercise. I probably lose at least a couple of pounds after a two-hour performance. It almost makes up for the fact that I tend to celebrate afterwards with a huge meal! Almost.
 
CSO: That sounds like a good workout plan. Do you exercise off-stage, too?
JB: Well, not as much as I used to, but I still love to play tennis and basketball, and I always seem to be running through airports to catch my plane!
 
CSO: You also have children you must run after quite a bit?
JB: Yes, three. Three young boys, 8-year-old twins, and an 11 year-old. I'm trying to teach them tennis, so hopefully they will help me stay in shape.
 
CSO: We also hear you're a foodie.
JB: Yes! I love food. It's one of the great joys of traveling. I love tasting foods from different regions of the world. Recent highlights were eating at Noma in Copenhagen, The French Laundry in Napa, Au Cheval in Chicago wow, what a burger! I also just got back from Asia, including Thailand, which has some of my favorite food in the world.
 
CSO: So what's the greatest parallel between an athlete in competition and a violinist on stage?
JB: There are so many similarities.  To excel in either, it always helps to have started young, and both require excessive training. Whether it's playing basketball or playing the violin, one must have extreme focus, and must have confidence which comes from great preparation and also from learning how to conquer ones fears and doubts under pressure - always trying to get "in the zone."
 
CSO: Also, as a soloist with an orchestra, you're part of a "team" effort in the presenting of music.
JB: Absolutely.  As with sports, making music is almost always a team effort.  One must react to others, and know how and when to lead and when to follow.  An orchestra is a lot like a football team, all with separate tasks but working toward a common goal, and the soloists job, I suppose, is to be part quarterback and part coach! (OK, maybe I've taken the analogy too far!)...It is no coincidence that I happen to love football season, and I always try my best to keep my Sundays free to watch as many games as possible! Go Panthers!

Join us on Opening Night to see Joshua Bell perform Brahms Violin Concerto. Read more

6 Things about Joshua Bell

Get to know superstar violinist Joshua Bell, who joins us for Opening Night on September 21.

He was a child prodigy.
Joshua Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on December 9, 1967 and began taking violin at age 4. His parents had noticed that he had stretched rubber bands across the handles of his dresser drawer to try to replay music he had heard her play on the piano.
 
A teenage symphonic debut.
By 14 Bell had appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti. He studied violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and went on to receive an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University in 1989. By 17 he had debuted at Carnegie Hall debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
 
A champion of new works.
Like the Charlotte Symphony, Bell is a fan of promoting new works. Having premiered Nicholas Maw's violin concerto, which is dedicated to Bell, in 1993, he won a Grammy Award for his recording. He will kick off our 2018-19 season at Opening Night, where he'll perform the Brahms Violin Concerto and we'll debut a commissioned work by Nkeiru Okoye in celebration of Charlotte at 250.
 
Fate and a 300-year old Stradivarius.
Bell's instrument is a storied 300-year old Stradivarius violin, the "Gibson ex Huberman," made in 1713. The instrument survived war, theft, and much more, and we'll hear it live on September 21. Read the story in Bell's own words, here.
 
Oscars, etc.
Bell performed the violin solos for the Oscar-winning soundtrack for 'The Red Violin' and was also featured in  film scores including  'Ladies in Lavender',  'Iris' and 'Defiance'.
 
A man of other talents.
On May 26, 2011, Bell was named Music Director of the British music ensemble, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Selected by the orchestra members, he is the only other person to hold this position following the great Sir Neville Marriner, who founded the orchestra in 1958.
Read more

"An Instrument Meant to Be Played": Joshua Bell on His Stradivarius Violin



The Huberman Violin
by Joshua Bell, on his historic instrument's 300th birthday.

My violin is over 300 years old.

Known as the Gibson ex Huberman, the revered instrument came into my life one fateful day during the summer of 2001. I was in London, getting ready to play a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall and decided to stop by the famous violin shop, J & A Beare to pick up some strings. As I entered the shop, Charles Beare was just coming out of the back room with a stunning violin in hand. He told me that it was the famous Huberman Strad, and of course I was instantly intrigued.


I soon learned all of the known details of the violin's remarkable history, which is complete with twists and turns to rival the film that I had only recently finished working on, The Red Violin. Believed to be one of only five or six instruments made in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari in Cremona, Italy, the violin has belonged to many, including the English violinist George Alfred Gibson. But it was its connection to Bronislaw Huberman that I found particularly fascinating and somewhat personal.

Huberman was a Jewish Polish violinist who lived from 1882-1947. He was a child prodigy who was revered for his remarkable virtuosity and daring interpretations. Huberman studied under Joseph Joachim in Berlin, and by the age of 11 he was already touring Europe as a virtuoso. It was during one of those early tours that he met the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was only six at the time, and had not yet achieved the legendary status that he came to hold. The two musicians remained lifelong friends.
 
At 13 Huberman had the honor of performing the violin concerto of Johannes Brahms in the presence of the composer himself, who was stunned by his interpretation. According to biographer Max Kalbeck, "As soon as Brahms heard the sound of the violin, he pricked up his ears, during the Andante he wiped his eyes, and after the Finale he went into the green room, embraced the young fellow, and stroked his cheeks. When Huberman complained that the public applauded after the cadenza, breaking into the lovely Cantilena, Brahms replied, 'You should not have played the cadenza so beautifully.' "

Huberman became one of the most celebrated musicians of his time, but it was in 1929 that his contribution to humanity took on an added dimension. During that year he visited Palestine and came up with the idea to establish a classical music presence there. During Hitler's rise to power, Huberman had the foresight to realize he could save many Jewish artists while fulfilling his desire to start a Palestinian Orchestra. Huberman auditioned musicians from all over Europe. Those selected for the orchestra would receive contracts and, most importantly, otherwise impossible-to-get exit visas from their homeland to Palestine. Huberman raised the money for the musicians and then their families, even partnering with Albert Einstein to set up an exhaustive U.S. fundraising trip in 1936. By the end of that tour, the money for the orchestra was secured and sixty top-rate players had been chosen from Germany and Central Europe.  

All in all, it was a fantastically successful tour, barring one particular performance at Carnegie Hall on February 28th.  That night Huberman chose to play the second half of his concert on his 'other violin', a Guarneri del Gesu.  During the applause following his performance of the Franck Sonata, Huberman's valet walked on stage to inform him that his Stradivarius had been stolen from his dressing room. The police were called while Huberman tried not to panic, continuing optimistically with his encores. The instrument had previously been stolen in 1919 from a hotel room in Vienna but was recovered days later when the thief tried to sell it. This time, Huberman was not so lucky.

There are several versions as to exactly how and why the violin was stolen, but what we know for sure is that the instrument ended up in the hands of a young freelance violinist by the name of Julian Altman. Some say Altman's mother convinced him to steal it; others report that Altman bought if off the actual thief for $100. Regardless, Altman took great pains to conceal the violin's true identity, covering its lovely varnish with shoe polish and performing on it throughout the rest of his career, which included a stint as first chair with the National Symphony Orchestra during World War II.

Heartbroken, Huberman never saw his Stradivarius again. However, his great dream was fulfilled when the new Palestine Orchestra made its debut in December of 1936 with the great Toscanini on the podium. I like to imagine that my own relatives might have been in the audience on that opening night, as my grandfather was born there and my great grandfather was part of the first "Aliyah" of Russian Jewish immigrants to Palestine in 1882. As for his violin, it was played by its suspected thief for over fifty years, and in 1985, Julian Altman made a deathbed confession to his wife, Marcelle Hall, about the true identity of the instrument. She eventually returned the violin to Lloyd's of London and received a finder's fee; and the instrument underwent a nine month restoration by J & A Beare Ltd which noted it was like "taking dirt off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel."

The instrument was then sold to the late British violinist Norbert Brainin of the Amadeus String Quartet. Previous to my fortuitous encounter with the violin at J & A Beare, Brainin had once let me play it after a rehearsal of the Mozart g minor string quintet which I had the pleasure of playing with him one evening in the 1990s. "One day you might be lucky enough to have such a violin," he had said prophetically.

And so here I was in 2001, buying some strings at the violin shop and I was introduced to the 1713 Stradivarius again. As it was handed to me, I was told it was being sold to a wealthy German industrialist for his private collection. However, after playing only a few notes on it I vowed that this would not happen. This was an instrument meant to be played, not just admired. I fell in love with the instrument right away, and even performed that very night on it at the Royal Albert Hall. I simply did not want it to leave my hands.

This violin is special in so many ways. It is overwhelming to think of how many amazing people have held it and heard it. When I perform in Israel with the Israel Philharmonic, I am always touched to think how many of the orchestra and audience members are direct descendants of the musicians Huberman saved from the Holocaust with funds raised by concerts performed on the very same instrument I play every day. Who knows what other adventures will come to my precious violin in the years to come? While it certainly will be enjoyed and admired long after I am not around anymore, for the time being I count myself incredibly lucky to be its caretaker on its 300th birthday.

Hear Joshua Bell play Brahms Violin Concerto on this storied instrument at our Opening Night on September 21. Read more

Posted in Classics.

Older Posts »

Archives