Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A new beginning for Charlotte Concerts

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 11:14 AM

The 80th anniversary season of Carolinas Concert Association began with some radical changes. Founded during the Great Depression, CCA seemed destined for awhile to succumb to the Great Recession. Rebranded as Charlotte Concerts and transported to the cozier confines of Halton Theater, the born-again series resurfaced on October 23 with the Perlman/Schmidt/Bailey Piano Trio.

Perlman/Schmidt/Baily Piano Trio - Left to right: Giora Schmidt, Navah Perlman, Zuill Bailey
  • Perlman/Schmidt/Baily Piano Trio - Left to right: Giora Schmidt, Navah Perlman, Zuill Bailey

Comprised of pianist Navah Perlman (yes, Itzhak’s daughter), violinist Giora Schmidt, and cellist Zuill Bailey, the group warmed up with Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 6 in E-flat, written after the Pastoral Symphony No. 6, when the composer’s reputation and fame – if not his considerable artistic powers – were still on the ascent. It’s a surprisingly sunny and straightforward piece, without some of the feints and misdirection we see elsewhere in Beethoven, but the group’s chemistry didn’t mesh ideally with the hall.

Too much resonance haunted the treble, yet Perlman was disinclined to ease off on the pedals of the Yamaha, smudging the outer allegro movements. Schmidt could have helped more, but he sounded diffident in the opening movement and ignored his chances to assert himself in the ensuing allegretto. The third movement displayed Schmidt’s lyrical side to far better advantage, winking here and there with a scherzo charm and swaying with a lovely 3/4 lilt. His final affirmations in the closing allegro had all the sizzle that had been missing earlier.

Zuill Bailey had a better sound going for him at Halton than when I heard him back in August, playing the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Simone Dinnerstein at (le) poisson rouge in New York. Halton flattered all of the cello – even when Bailey was in the background plucking pizzicatos. He was most assertive in the outer movements, particularly virtuosic in the finale.

Perlman had better moments when Beethoven’s writing remained submerged in the bass clef, but the first treble notes with real bite from the pianist had to wait until after intermission when the P/S/B attacked the Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in B. Perlman’s chords were crisp in the opening allegro, Schmidt was suddenly ferocious, and Bailey showed he could add extra edge to his mellow sound at the right times. In the middle movements with their shifting tempi, Schmidt had some mercurial lapses, best when sharing the rhapsodic mode of the second movement with Perlman or espousing the more ardent second subject of the ensuing adagio. But the launch of the fast section in the scherzo movement was absolutely electric, and in the allegro agitato finale, Schmidt and Bailey carried on the argument with Hungarian zest while Perlman stirred the pot.

Three encores followed, the players introducing the bonbons with disarming informality. The first new jewel on the Central Piedmont Community College campus, Halton seems to make that possible in a way that Belk never has. Otherwise, the new Charlotte Concerts instantly showed itself to be very much in the same mold as the old Carolinas series, which over the years brought the likes of Sharon Isbin, Isaac Stern, Van Cliburn, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the St. Petersburg Ballet to town.

But does anybody know about the born-again Charlotte Concerts? I’m not sure the new outfit filled Halton nearly as well as the old outfit filled the Belk at the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

The “reorganized” Charlotte Concerts doesn’t seem to have retained the CCA’s audience or their mailing list. Doesn’t seem likely that faithful CCA followers received notices – or special offers – to renew their subscriptions. I didn’t. Such superfluous notices (in addition to a steady stream of press releases) are a fact of life at Charlotte Symphony and every other established performing arts organization in town that I review. The organizational amnesia at the new website also belies the cheerful rebranding spin that the recent cover story in The Charlotte Observer put on the new series. So the CCA reorganization figures to be a smoothly covered breach. Charlotte style.

Returning to the more important points. Charlotte Concerts figures to be every bit as good as Carolinas Concert Association always was over the past 79 seasons – once we all get past this nasty patch with the economy – if more people find out about it. So instead of delving further into the dirty linens lurking in the old CCA’s cupboards and boardrooms, let me spread the word about the lineup for the rest of the Charlotte Concerts season.

Friday, January 22, 2010 at 8pm

Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist Haochen Zhang

Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

The Five Browns

80th Anniversary Celebration in Collaboration the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Knight Theater, 430 South Tryon St.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 8 p.m.

“Bach to the Future”

Collaboration of Charlotte Concerts and The Ethos Consortium

Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.

Friday, April 16, 2010 at 8 p.m.

Empire Brass

In conjunction with CPCC’s annual ArtsFest celebration

Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.

Call the CPCC box office at 704-330-6534 for all the shows at Halton and the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center box office at 704-372-1000 for the February 16 show at the Knight. And try to be patient with these selfless lovers of the performing arts. They’re reorganizing. Sort of like the Federal Government.

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