Sound of Charlotte Blog
Branford Marsalis hails from the musically rich and diverse city of New Orleans and was raised in a house of jazz royalty - his father, Ellis, was one of New Orleans' most esteemed pianists and music educators, and he's the oldest among jazz siblings Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis. The New York Times described the Marsalis family as "jazz's most storied living dynasty."
Marsalis has performed with countless jazz legends, formed his own quartet in 1986, and is the winner of three Grammy awards, but his musical interests are not confined to jazz, he is also an accomplished and dedicated performer of classical music and has made a name for himself as a soloist in the orchestral world.
Though he bridges these two musical worlds, his approach is different when playing classical music, "I have to be less loud," Marsalis said in a 2019 interview for artsfile. "I need to have a mouthpiece that allows me to control the tone. Non-classical music never really gets to pianissimo. It never gets softer than super loud. To get that you have to practice in a different way. I played clarinet first. My clarinet teacher was always on me about my tone."
When asked which genre was more difficult, Marsalis didn't hesitate, "Classical is harder. Jazz is like a story that you personalize, but classical is a story where you can't use your own words. It's like reading Shakespeare or Chaucer. You have to develop the characters to make them believable, but the words aren't yours, and you're not going to change Shakespeare. You can't. In classical music, you don't play your own notes, you play theirs."
Branford Marsalis performs the first movement of Ibert's Concertino da Camera.
Reflecting on the growth of his classical music career, Marsalis said "Classical music in my 40s got me to a place where I was going to have to practice and become a better player. It made me a better musician."
Branford Marsalis will join Christopher Warren-Green and your Charlotte Symphony at the Belk Theater on May 14 & 15 to perform Ibert's lyrical and soaring Concertino da camera and Schulhoff's jazz-inspired Hot Sonate. >> Get Tickets
As a critically acclaimed violist and passionate educator, New York-based artist Jessica Meyer embarked on her composition career only seven years ago. In a recent interview for the record label Bright Shiny Things she explained, "After many, many years of playing new music and helping kids create their own music, I could not ignore the nagging feeling I had that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I started to write for myself, but once I started writing for other people in 2014, the floodgates were opened and I knew that without a doubt that was what was missing from my life."
In her solo performances, Meyer uses a single simple loop pedal to create a virtuosic orchestral experience using her viola and voice. Drawing from wide-ranging influences which include Bach, Brahms, Delta blues, Flamenco, Indian Raga, and Appalachian fiddling, Meyer's music takes audience members on a journey through joy, anxiety, anger, bliss, torment, loneliness, and passion.
Meyer's work Slow Burn had its premiere on March 18, 2018, performed by the string quintet Sybarite5.
It is also a combination of all the groovy music I like to listen to, at the heart of which is a theme that most singers wind up singing about at some point: that unrequited love that was never meant to be.
Hear Jessica Meyer's Slow Burn performed by your Charlotte Symphony streamed from the Knight Theater on Saturday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. (watch through March 13)
Take a journey backstage to see what goes into producing your Charlotte Symphony's virtual Classical Series Reimagined. From the musicians and conductors to stagehands and video producers the work of many hands comes together to create the concerts that stream directly to your living room.
There are many more opportunities to experience your Charlotte Symphony from the comfort of your own home. Subscribe today for exclusive content, extended access to each concert, and save 10%. Explore the Classical Series Reimagined! Read more
Photo credit: Jiyang Chen
|A composer, violinist, and educator, Jessie Montgomery's music melds the classical tradition with elements of folk music, spirituals, improvisation, language, and social justice. As a rising star in today's classical music scene Jessie has made a name for herself composing works that have been described as "turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life" (The Washington Post).
Jessie was born and raised in Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s during a time when the neighborhood was at a major turning point in its history. Artists gravitated to the hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development.
Her parents - her father a musician, her mother a theater artist and storyteller - were engaged in the activities of the neighborhood and regularly brought Jessie to rallies, performances, and parties where neighbors, activists, and artists gathered to celebrate and support the movements of the time. It is from this unique experience that Jessie has created a life that merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy.
Through her music, Montgomery often explores the theme of what it means to be an American (especially a Black woman in America), her heritage, and what her parents have experienced in this country.
Montgomery's work, Starburst, was commissioned by the Sphinx Organization and premiered by its resident Sphinx Virtuosi in 2012. Montgomery writes:
Hear Jessie Montgomery's Starburst performed by your Charlotte Symphony - streamed live from the Knight Theater on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 pm (watch through Feb. 13). >> Details
By Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees
Analogies for the art form we know as "classical music" run the full expressive gamut from museum pieces under glass to masterpieces delivered by the Divine through unparalleled genius. While each person develops their own relationship with this timeless music, along my journey I learned that classical music is a "living tradition." As artists, we honor our important history through our repertoire choices and performance practices, while also breathing life into new pieces filled with fresh inspiration. Sometimes the ink is still wet on the page it's so new.
And every so often, the timelines combine. A composer from the current century may look directly into a piece from the past for inspiration. Such is the case with Leonardo Balada's magnificent 2007 work: A Little Night Music in Harlem.
Like so many composers we know, Leonardo Balada left his home to study composition in another country. His journey took him from the Catalan region of Spain to New York City, in 1956.
Perhaps then, as now, there was no more famous a piece than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's own Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which itself translates to "A Little Night Music." One only need hear the opening two bars to immediately connect with its universal representation of all classical music in popular culture.
Combining the energy of Balada's adopted home in New York with the perfect craftsmanship of Mozart, we hear incredible reflections and refractions of both worlds simultaneously. Details of Mozart's genius we might miss during a casual listening become magnified and transformed through Balada's contemporary eye and ear. Other moments take us straight to West 132nd street, with urban grit and energy summoned through the brilliant virtuosity of the Charlotte Symphony strings.
I'm so excited for this upcoming concert because as we play the first two movements of Mozart followed by the Balada, I envision it as Mozart's brilliance and Balada's captivating compositional sounds becoming linked through time, that ephemeral medium all performing artists wield on stage.
It is this unique time traveling experience that keeps our marvelous tradition very much alive - breathing, full of inspiration, and made perpetually new.
Don't miss Mozart Night Music, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees, streaming live on Feb. 6 at 7:30 pm. Read more
In a previous blog post, I featured a list of my favorite orchestral clarinet solos. While a significant amount of my in the orchestra is spent playing the clarinet, there are many occasions when you can also catch me at CSO concerts performing on the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet is often featured for its ability to fortify and color the woodwind section. Nevertheless, there are some spectacular passages that spotlight the appeal of this magnificent instrument as a solo instrument in its own right.
Here are my Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos:
10) William Schuman's Symphony No. 3 (Part II, Toccata)
9) Gershwin's Concerto in F (Second movement)
8) Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, middle of Pas de Deux)
7) Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 (Fifth movement)
6) Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (Act II, scene 3)
5) Wagner's Die Walkure (Act II, scene 2; Act III, scene 3)
4) Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Opening)
3) Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony (First movement)
2) Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (First movement)
1) Khachaturian's Piano Concerto
Your Charlotte Symphony's virtual concerts have already been viewed by thousands of people and received widespread acclaim, with a critic from Classical Voice North Carolina observing that, "the Charlotte Symphony's [virtual concert series] demonstrates the persistence and resilience of the arts and artists and the organization's commitment to its musicians, as well as its listening community."
We're reimagining what it means to serve as your orchestra during the pandemic, and it's been thrilling to find new and innovative ways to bring the music directly to you and your families.
But we're just getting started! The New Year brings four new virtual concerts.
- The return of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducting works by Elgar, Holst, Mozart, and more.
- The continuation of our celebration of Beethoven 250 with performances of his First and Seventh Symphonies.
- Concertmaster Calin Ovidiu Lupanu and Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn take center stage for concerti by Mendelssohn and Hummel, respectively.
- Contemporary works by Jessie Montgomery and Leonardo Balada, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees.
We're Here to HelpWe want you to make sure that everything is working for you once you're settled in to watch our concerts. Please check out this blog post for information on how to access the CSO's virtual concerts. We also have step-by-step instructions for how to stream the concert from a variety of devices, including your computer, phone, or smart TV.
If you would prefer to speak to someone, please contact Patron Services at 704.972.2000 or email@example.com.
By CSO Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld
As a 34-year veteran of the CSO, I am often asked what music I particularly like. With that in mind, I've devised a list of my top ten favorite orchestral clarinet solos. Come listen to the orchestra in our performances and you will hear many more examples of great musical passages featuring the clarinet!
10) Respighi: Pines of Rome (end of Pines of the Janiculum)
Respighi effectively highlights the tremendous ppp (pianississimo, or "very very quiet") capabilities of the instrument. As the clarinet sound floats away, a recording of a nightingale can be faintly heard.
9) Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini
I love Tchaikovsky for his truly memorable melodies. This one especially shows off the expressive qualities of the instrument.
8) Brahms: Symphony No. 3 (opening of second movement)
Gorgeous! You can hear in this solo with woodwind chorale that Brahms had a particular fondness for the sound of the clarinet, and he knew just how to make it sing.
7) Puccini: Tosca (Act III, "E Lucevan le Stelle")
One of the greatest clarinet solos in opera literature, from one of the most readily recognizable Italian arias.
6) Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (beginning)
Anyone who has ever seen Woody Allen's film "Manhattan" knows there's no way I could leave this showstopper off the list.
5) Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
There are three big clarinet solos spread throughout this suite. And they are big: erotic, wild, frenzied cadenzas with lots of notes!
4) Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (middle of second movement)
The clarinet solo Beethoven wrote here really allows the sound of the instrument to soar above the orchestra.
3) Rimsky-Korsakoff: Cappriccio Espagnol
A dazzling display of clarinet bravura and technique.
2) Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 (beginning of first movement)
Another great lyrical solo for clarinet, especially showing off the instrument's ability to taper sound into nothingness.
1) Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2
This solo is one of the most romantic lyrical melodies ever written for the clarinet.
This solo and cadenza seem perfectly suited to the clarinet, full of gypsy character and technical pyrotechnics.
When Music Director Christopher Warren-Green returned to Charlotte in October, it had been more than 7 months since he stood at the podium. "It's like a great big hole in your life," he said about the lengthy break from performing. "It's forced me to slow down and reevaluate what's important."
One thing that's important to Maestro Warren-Green is getting back to work with the musicians of the CSO. "When you have an Orchestra that's played together for 80 years, it becomes like its own instrument a well-oiled machine with its own developed sound. If they go too long without playing together it can cause problems, not to mention that we'd all have nervous breakdowns! At the end of the day, we all live, eat, and breathe music. You wouldn't do this job if that wasn't true."
While concerts this season -- Warren-Green's eleventh with the CSO -- might be a bit different, the Maestro is looking forward to the opportunities that it will bring. "Because of social distancing, we've had to scale down from our full symphony orchestra. What that does, strangely enough, is give us the opportunity to explore repertoire that we wouldn't normally be able to share with our audience."
"We are living in a technological revolution, and maybe something good comes out of this."
CSO on Demand -- the Symphony's virtual concert series -- includes two concerts conducted by Maestro Warren-Green this fall, including works by Brahms, Dvořák, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky. He's been pleasantly surprised by the success of virtual concerts during the quarantine. "As a musician watching the BBC Proms from my living room this year, it was almost like the concert was happening just for me. And knowing that there were thousands of other people in their houses feeling the same thing; it really got into my heart. I thought, 'Wow! There is something really special going on.' We are living in a technological revolution, and maybe something good comes out of this."
His advice for you? "Get dressed, go into your living room, have a glass of wine, sit down and make sure no one interrupts you. Do that and watch our virtual concerts, and you'll get something extraordinary from it." Read more
Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. To celebrate this historic achievement, the Charlotte Symphony is using its platform to highlight the many contributions of women in classical music. We asked a few CSO musicians and conductors to share with us a list of women composers who they wish everyone knew more about.
"She's an extremely talented individual, an accomplished violinist and chamber musician in the Catalyst Quartet, and I've been so proud to perform her wonderful music alongside the rest of our canon of timeless art pieces. I hope we will continue to share her beautiful work with our Charlotte community!" - Principal Violist Benjamin Geller
"Gabriela Lena Frank is a varied & important fixture in American composition, has numerous awards & Composer in Residence credentials, and has founded a Creative Academy of Music which enables opportunity for dozens of up & coming composers. Her string orchestra piece 'An Andean Walkabout,' written for A Far Cry in Boston, is both visceral in energy & jarring rhythmically. A terrific, monumental piece that I love." - Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees
"I think her music is important to be celebrated because, to be honest, I just really like it. When I have performed some of her solo pieces, they have spoken personally to me, and I found myself lost in tunes that I wish I had written myself." - Trombonist Thomas Burge
"When I was 13 years old, Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra was one of the first big flute solos that I had ever performed. It's a very popular piece for young flutists, and I didn't realize until years after playing it that Chaminade is actually female!" - Youth Philharmonic Conductor Jessica Morel
"Chaminade composed more than 400 pieces, but the Concertino is her most beloved and remains an important piece in the flute repertoire. Though her father did not permit her to attend the Conservatoire de Paris, she was able to study composition privately and eventually gained popularity as a composer and pianist." - Flutist Amy Orsinger Whitehead
an orchestral piece in celebration of the city's 250th anniversary.
"I think Nkeiru Okoye is important because her works incorporate many different sounds and styles from cultural areas that are both part of her own personal journey, and also are part of a larger narrative regarding the history of African American people. Spending her youth divided between living in New York and Nigeria, she offers an important personal perspective through her music that also highlights a broader cultural connection that resonates with many Americans." - Trombonist Thomas Burge
Inspired to learn about more women composers? A great place to start is Music Critic Anne Midgette's list of the top women composers in classical music from The Washington Post. Read more
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