by James Hogan
When you have some time, Google “Stradivarius Wilhelmj.”
It’s not an anagram, I assure you; nor is it going to lead you to some kinky Polish-Italian website. With any luck, you’ll see a Wiki entry or some other note to tell you about this fabulous violin that blissfully visited Charlotte this weekend at the CSO’s performances of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major. (The orchestra also performed selections from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Strauss’ mighty Also sprach Zarathustra.)
The Wilhelmj violin, whose sound was like honey in every real and clichéd sense of the simile, sat in the hands of Latvian player Baiba Skride–and before I am too caught up in the fascination of historical instruments, I owe her praise for a stirring performance of the Mozart piece.
And before I am too caught up in fascination of renowned guest soloists, I owe the Charlotte Symphony praise for an energetic, nearly galloping performance of Zarathustra. The opening segment, “Prologue: Sunrise,” is enough to make any timpani player ooze with excitement. I guarantee you, Scott Christian, Charlotte’s timpani extraordinaire, had fun this weekend.
But before I am too caught up in those well-struck kettle drums, let us rest for a moment on Christof Perick. For all of the talk we’ve had about who will become the next music director at the CSO, we must not forget to cherish Mr. Perick’s last performances here. It was Zarathustra, only performed one other time by the orchestra in 2000, that brought Mr. Perick to Charlotte. And at Friday’s performance, his energy leapt from the podium, inspiring the orchestra to a fortissimo I haven’t heard from them in some time.
One last treasure from that concert: the pipe organ. I had never heard the organ in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and I was so glad to see it featured in the Strauss work. Perick wanted us to hear it, too–he gave the organist full authority to allow his notes to hang in for an extra moment or two in the most rousing sustained phrases.
Surely I’ve left noteworthy compliments out of this rambling review. Share your favorite parts of this weekend’s concert in the comments section.