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Salisbury Symphony’s ‘Return to the Concert Hall’ available May 24-31

By W. Gerald Cochran

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Symphony is presenting its third virtual concert of the season, a “Return to the Concert Hall,” recorded on May 1 in Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College.

Improved public health conditions allowed for the use of a larger ensemble than could be
done for the two previous concerts, and what a glorious program they presented.

Opening the concert was the Concerto for Four Violins in B minor, RV 580, by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) with Dan Skidmore, R. J. Wohlman, Laura Blankenship, and Ulric Schweizer as violin soloists. This is a work requiring virtuosic playing from all four of the soloists, and there was no shortage of that in this performance. One of the advantages of seeing this performed live, which is missed on an audio CD, is how the soloists pass the musical line from one to the next and then jump back and forth, answering each other. It is a delight to watch and hear, and this performance did not deny that pleasure.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was an English composer and a central figure of 20th century British classical music. His Sinfonietta was written when he was just 18, when he was still a student, and was published as his Opus 1. It is scored for 10 instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. In some ways it shows a fascination with early 20th century atonal work. It is tightly constructed and anticipates much of his later work. While you will not be able to hum a tune from this work, it is remarkably interesting to hear and watch, and it was expertly executed by the musicians.

On a more melodious note, Richard Wagner (1813-1883) composed Siegfried Idyll in 1869 as a surprise birthday present for his wife, and was first performed on Christmas morning in 1870 to awaken her. It also honors their newly-born son, Siegfried. This work was later incorporated into his opera Siegfried. Scored for strings, woodwinds, and brass, it features wonderful solos from most of the players, all beautifully performed in this concert.

Closing the program was a delightful work by Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), a French composer of classical music. Divertissement is a 1930 reworking of music he wrote in 1929 for a well-known theatrical farce, The Italian Straw Hat. The plot is complicated and inane, and involves a search for a lost straw hat, a wedding, a tryst, a nocturne, a waltz and a parade. There are six movements, and the music overflows with wit and elan. One can almost see the story unfold by listening to the music. It is a total delight, and was beautifully, and comically, played.

Once again, Music Director David Hagy and the members of the Salisbury Symphony presented a widely varied concert that can be enjoyed by all. It can be viewed from May 24-31. Visit  salisburysymphony.org and click on “Get Tickets” or call the Symphony Office at 704-216-1513.

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