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Charlotte Symphony Plays Dvořák's New World

Nov 22, 2019

By Cecilia Whalen

The Charlotte Symphony continued its 2019-20 season on Nov. 22 with a three-piece program featuring Dvořák's New World Symphony. Though occasionally lacking in precision, the orchestra performed with power to a full audience in the Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, led by guest conductor Ilyich Rivas.

This evening, Rivas conducted the orchestra with spirit, moving through three dramatic and romantic pieces by Schumann, Brahms, and, of course, Dvořák.

The orchestra opened with Schumann's Overture to Manfred, the tense and exciting beginning to Schumann's Manfred, a score written to portray Lord Byron's 1817 dramatic poem of the same name. Lord Byron's poem follows the guilt-stricken and self-tortured Manfred, who broods and awaits death, self-isolating in the Alps and addressing the supernatural with impotent outrage ("back, you baffled fiends!"). Schumann's music mirrors this melodrama with running strings, groaning woodwinds, and blaring horns.

Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1873) followed the Schumann. Exploring Haydn's simple and elegant melody entitled "St. Anthony Chorale," Brahms created nine brief variations (including a finale) that range from a lovely and sweet Grazioso to commanding and rhythmically complex movements, such as the Andante and Vivace sections.*

Dvořák's New World demands drama and strength as well as grace and sentiment, and the orchestra was successful in their portrayal. A particularly effective moment came towards the middle of the first movement, at the end of the flute solo where the orchestra picks up the flute melody; Rivas and the orchestra took a subtle rallentando, pulling the audience in in anticipation of the resolution.

Dvořák's New World is a gorgeous and invigorating piece of music, and the orchestra played with power. The melodies impress upon the audience, at times jolting them suddenly, at others, soothing them gently. The melodies linger too: Walking out the door of the theater, you could hear the ghosts of Dvořák being hummed or whistled triumphantly or sweetly by today's "New World" citizens.

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