North Carolina Chamber Orchestra Features Fantastic Flutist Laura Dangerfield Stevens by Timothy H. Lindeman – April 7, 2023 – Greensboro, NC
The North Carolina Chamber Orchestra played a program at Well-Spring Community that spanned music from the 17th to the 21st centuries: from Pachelbel to Bartók and beyond. Leading the band of 14 musicians was director Paul Manz. Special soloist was flutist Laura Dangerfield Stevens.
Stevens was featured in two works: the three-movement Flute Concerto in G by Johann Joachim Quantz (Germany, 1697-1773) and the short Morceau de Concours (Competition Piece) by Gabriel Fauré (France, 1845-1924). Her playing of both was exquisite.
Quantz’s concerto is in the “Galant style,” which emphasizes lightness and elegance. The three movements are in a fast—slow—fast arrangement. The opening Allegro begins, as is typical, with the orchestra playing before the soloist joins in; it is upbeat with lots of figuration and brimming with energy. Stevens negotiated the fast passages with flair and finesse. I believe I counted two cadenzas for the soloist, cleanly played. The middle movement, Arioso mesto (like a sad aria) contains drooping figures set in a minor key, and the soloist’s tender playing was moving. The final Allegro vivace (cheerful and lively) was just that. Stevens’ flute playing was wonderfully alive.
Ensemble was terrific between orchestra and soloist thanks to Manz’s close attention to both. Stevens’ intonation was first-rate. At the “harpsichord” (here, an electronic keyboard) was Susan Young, who provided harmonic and rhythmic support—to this listener, though, the synthesizer could have been louder… (Full review HERE)
North Carolina Chamber Orchestra Presents “The Spectacular Viola” By Emmeline MacMillan
February 11, 2022 – Greensboro, NC
This past Friday night, the North Carolina Chamber Orchestra retook the stage for the first time in over two years. The regional ensemble presented a program of intimate works for chamber orchestra at the Virginia Somerville Sutton Theatre in the Well-Spring living community. Conducted by music director Paul Manz, the ensemble featured their principal violist, Simon Ertz, at the end of the first half.
The program began with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, an approximately fifteen-minute work that shifts between pensive and pastoral through Vaughan Williams’ English compositional style; the ensemble navigated these character shifts with care and communication across the stage. The low strings began the piece with a beautiful and rich timbre that spread out between sections as the music developed. The violins executed sensitivity with balance between melody and harmony, and the singular harp added a sparkling quality that perfectly rounded out the soundscape. The back stands of each section were also on risers for the entirety of the concert, and I thought this adjusted staging highly benefited the intimate nature of a chamber orchestra… (Full review HERE)
North Carolina Chamber Orchestra Features Rarely-Heard Work for Bassoon
January 18, 2020 – Greensboro, NC: The relatively newly formed North Carolina Chamber Orchestra (first concert, April 2018) presented a program featuring with one exception music from the 19th century. The NCCO began life as a string ensemble, but in this performance, winds, brass, and percussion joined the fifteen string players. Music director Paul Manz led the ensemble in the Well-Spring Theatre.
The guest soloist was Greensboro Symphony Orchestra principal bassoonist Carol Bernstorf, performing the 1811 Bassoon Concerto in F, Op. 75, by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826). The work is in the standard classical three movement form of fast-slow-fast. Weber was primarily known as an opera composer, and the orchestral introduction is, indeed, theatrical, with dramatic pauses, before the soloist enters. Bernstorf’s command of the bassoon was made clearly evident as she traversed her way through the many changes in character. From the opening regal theme to the lyric second tune, through the athletic arpeggios, trills and leaps, and from the very high to the very low registers of the instrument, the bassoonist wonderfully negotiated the virtuosic score. The Adagio highlighted Bernstorf’s lovely tone in the long-winded flowing melody. Again, Weber exploits both the top and bottom of the bassoon’s range. The third movement presents a cute tune that is heard throughout the rondo. More dramatic orchestral interludes and fast passages from the soloist made for a winning conclusion to this delightful and brilliant piece. Maestro Manz kept the ensemble and soloist together, with clear and precise direction throughout.
The evening opened with the Hebrides Overture (also known as Fingal’s Cave) Op. 26 (1830), by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47). The composer wrote the work after visiting the cave on the Hebridean isle of Staffa in 1829. From where I was sitting, the strings were somewhat overshadowed by the winds and brass. However, both the dramatic and the tender passages were vividly carved out by the ensemble. I was immediately impressed with the clarity of sound that comes from a smaller ensemble; one can hear the tiniest of details without the mass associated with a large orchestra. Of course, the occasional brass flub or ragged entrance is also noticeable.
Manz told the small but attentive audience that “The Last Spring,” by Edvard Greig (1843-1907), was a favorite of Ray Henderson, the conductor of the first ensemble that Manz played in as a youngster. The short work is a gentle essay using folk-inspired tunes. Concertmaster Dan Skidmore ably supplied the short solo violin part.
The second half of the program began with the scurrying Overture to The Marriage of Figaro (1786) by Wolfgang Mozart (1756-91). It is always a delight to hear, and the ensemble played with great gusto.
2020 is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827); audiences should expect to hear a lot from the composer this year. And, appropriately, the NCCO concluded the concert with the master’s Symphony No. 8 In F, Op. 93 (1812), which the composer referred to as “my little Symphony in F,” as opposed to the much larger 6th symphony in the same key.
This is a delightful, light-hearted work with clever and humorous passages throughout. I thought the opening fast movement could have been a bit faster, but the ensemble turned in an entirely winning performance. Especially notable were the royal brass calls in the third movement and the boisterous finale that ends the symphony with good humor.
The Auspicious Debut of the North Carolina Chamber Orchestra (4/20/18)
The birth of a newly organized chamber orchestra is always eagerly anticipated. Music director Paul Manz introduced the premiere concert of the North Carolina Chamber Orchestra as being the result of nearly a year’s careful planning. For this concert, it consisted of four first violins, four second violins, three violas, three cellos, one double bass with the nimble John Fair on an electronic keyboard as the harpsichord continuo. Fellowship Presbyterian Church, on New Garden, provided fine acoustics for the musicians. Two works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685- 1750) sandwiched a rare treat by Gustav Holst (1893-1934) before intermission. A rich work by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) left the audience in a good mood... (Full Review)
… Manz led a superb performance with wonderfully sprung rhythms, precis attacks, and a wide tapestry of string tone. The several prominent violin solos were superbly played by concertmaster Dan Skidmore. More than one violin solo reminded me of the flavor of the orientalism of those in the Scheherazade, Op. 35 of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff… (Full Review)