Where have I been all these years? Only last spring did I attend my first concert by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, in the pleasant Fletcher Hall of the Carolina Theatre of Durham–a completely enjoyable afternoon. I had to miss the first concert of the 2013-14 season in October, but fortunately made it for the one on Nov. 17. It was brief, but full of contrasts, and a true refreshment.
The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, or the COT, as it is affectionately known, is home to a varying cast of professional musicians, and amateurs–in the best sense of the word–lovers of music, with considerable talent and skill, who make their livings otherwise. The COT is led by artistic director and conductor Lorenzo Muti, whose generous spirit infuses the ensemble (Go here for an interesting 20-year-old article on Muti’s background). Both conductor and players enjoy making a variety of music, so the programs often surprise with their juxtapositions. The COT also brings in guest artists periodically, and often they are rising stars.
“Bulls to Ballrooms” was the program title for the 17th, and the short concert began with a lovely short work, La oration del torero, by Joaquin Turina (1882-1949), during which you can easily imagine the proud bullfighter strutting, admiring himself, then admitting to fear, and praying for protection and glorious victory. During this first piece, the first violin/concert mistress Jennifer Curtis stood out for her violin’s smooth warmth and her own rather splendid bowing style.
Curtis is a Chapel Hill native, currently teaching at UNC, and a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, with a voracious appetite for music making in many forms. Her career takes her to prestigious halls around the US and the world, but currently we have many opportunities to hear her play on her 1777 Vincenzo Panormo violin. Earlier this week she posted this busy schedule on her Jennifer Curtis Violin Facebook page (Friday here refers to Nov. 22):
Friday night i’ll be performing Mozart’s concerto for violin, viola and orchestra
Symphony Concertante with Matt Chicurel
Proudly commemorating 50 years of music making in chapel hill and carrboro, recognizing teachers and performers, students, families and everyone who has helped to shape the classical music seen from a grass roots level for the last 5 decades !
3 cheers for Mary Fran Boyce !!
Friday 7pm Chapel Hill Bible Church
Thursday I am giving a public masterclass at Duke University- 5pm, Bone Hall, Biddle Music building
Also Thursday I’ll be performing with other UNC-CH faculty, students and Alumni for the world premiere of Isaiah, for Choir and orchestra by Stephen Anderson -Hill Hall auditorium, UNC
Sunday I’ll be hosting anther Bows for Beers at Steel string Brewery in Carrboro
Hope to see ya….
One charming feature of the COT programs is the brief talk on each piece given before its performance, usually by Maestro Muti. However, on the 17th, Curtis spoke about Anton Webern’s (1883-1945) Five pieces, op. 5, for string orchestra, written about 1910. Her knowledgeable disquisition offered ways in to the rather persnickety short tonal and textural explorations (Webern was a student of Arnold Schoenberg’s in Vienna). Webern, she said, was “trying to give density to every note. We play every note of the scale in the first two bars.” The pieces are so short, however, that sometimes it seemed to take longer for the orchestra to turn its pages and prepare for the next one than it took to play the previous one, which made for a jerky and uncomfortable whole.
Everyone seemed much happier, understandably, with the beautiful Tchaikovsky Serenade for string orchestra, op. 48. Muti controlled the tempi very smoothly, and again, Jennifer Curtis’ violin stood out, especially in the touchingly rendered third movement, Elegie (Larghetto elegiaco). The Finale (Tema russo) tumbled us out into the late afternoon light, grateful for a community in which music thrives in so many forms.
The next COT concert will take place January 12, 2014, and will be a rather special one. Along with its other fundraising efforts, the COT has recently established the Robert Ward Endowment for the Performance of 20th and 21st Century Music, in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, who spent part of his career in North Carolina, as President of the NC School of the Arts, and later as professor of music at Duke. “Homage to a Musical Pioneer: Honoring Robert Ward” on Jan.12 will include Ward’s Symphony No. 6. Andrew Tyson will appear as guest pianist; the program also includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Ticket information is here.