Trumpeter Alex Wilborn solos in with the Charlotte Symphony and conductor JoAnn Falletta. (courtesy of Charlotte Symphony)

Rare concertos provide delightful, poignant experience in Greenville and Charlotte

CONCERT REVIEW:
Greenville Symphony Orchestra
March 16 & 17, 2024
Peace Concert Hall, Peace Center
Greenville, SC – USA

Yaniv Attar, conductor; Hector Del Curto, bandoneón.
Lili BOULANGER: D’un matin de printemps
Astor PIAZZOLLA: Concerto for bandoneón
Modest MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition
Charlotte Symphony
March 22 & 23, 2024
Knight Theater, Levine Center for the Arts
Charlotte, NC – USA

JoAnn Falletta, conductor; Alex Wilborn, trumpet.
Richard WAGNER: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Oskar BÖEHME: Trumpet Concerto in F minor
Jean-Baptiste ARBAN: Carnival of Venice Variations
Julia PERRY: A Short Piece for Orchestra
Richard STRAUSS: Death and Transfiguration
Greenville Symphony Orchestra
March 2 & 3, 2024
Gunter Theatre, Peace Center
Greenville, SC – USA

Gary Robinson, conductor; Caroline Robinson, harpsichord.
Johann Friedrich FASCH: Ouverture from Orchestral Suite in D Major
Philip GLASS: Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra
Ottorino RESPIGHI: Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3
Johann Sebastian BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 3

Paul Hyde | 1 APR 2024

Two rarely heard concertos brought me to recent performances by the Greenville Symphony and Charlotte Symphony orchestras.

I came for the concertos but also enjoyed the fine accounts of the warhorses on the programs.

It’s a time-honored recipe, of course, for a successful orchestral program: Offer something familiar but something new as well — or at least something rarely performed.

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s March 16 program at the Peace Center spotlighted Astor Piazzolla’s Concerto for Bandoneón, while the Charlotte Symphony’s March 23 concert at Knight Theater featured Oskar Böhm’s Trumpet Concerto.

Both concertos provided a delightful, colorful, and poignant experience for this listener.


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But to back up a bit, what’s a bandoneón? Many classical music enthusiasts may not be familiar with this concertina, which is often used in tango ensembles.

It’s no surprise that Piazzolla (1921-1992) wrote a Concerto for Bandoneón. The Argentine composer is known particularly for infusing classical music with tango rhythms and melodies.

Piazzolla’s concerto toggles between highly syncopated episodes and a melancholy tunefulness. In Greenville, bandoneón virtuoso Hector Del Curto proved a strong advocate for this instrument with a spirited and clearly articulated account of the first and third movements.

Bandoneón virtuoso Hector Del Curto. (credit: Jeremy Fleming)

Bandoneón virtuoso Hector Del Curto. (credit: Jeremy Fleming)

Del Curto also brought out the suavely nostalgic appeal of the longlined melodies in the second movement. (The lyrical episodes made me feel like I had to been transported to a 1920s Parisian café. Of course, Piazzolla studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger so perhaps I wasn’t exactly losing my mind.) The third movement was a particularly energetic affair with wide leaps in the solo part.

Del Curto was an engaging performer who provided a humorous introduction to his instrument. He was a great hit with the audience; I only wish he had offered an encore.

Yaniv Attar (courtesy of Greenville Symphony)

Yaniv Attar (courtesy of Greenville Symphony)

Conductor Yaniv Attar drew committed playing from the Greenville Symphony. Attar is one of six guest conductors vying this season for the position of music director.

Attar, who led the orchestra expressively with his hands rather than using a baton, has a clear vision and, based on this hearing, draws a polished performance from an orchestra.

The program began with Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps (“Of a Spring Morning”). Under Attar’s leadership, Boulanger’s short piece was full of vitality and shimmering sensuality.



The program concluded with Modest Mussorgsky’s ever-popular Pictures at an Exhibition in the familiar orchestration by Maurice Ravel. It’s not said often enough that Ravel created what could be considered an almost entirely new piece, transforming Mussorgsky’s ponderous piano work into a brilliant showpiece for orchestra.

Attar conducted a dramatically satisfying account of the work with tempos on the brisk side and an artful degree of dynamic contrast. The piece was particularly memorable for the fierce rendition of “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” (which depicts the wild ride of the man-eating witch Baba Yaga) and the glorious final movement, “The Great Gate of Kiev.”

Lushly romantic concerto

And then, for me, it was onward to the Charlotte Symphony for another rarity: Oskar Böhme’s Trumpet Concerto, featuring the orchestra’s principal trumpet player, Alex Wilborn, and guest conductor JoAnn Falletta.

Alex Wilborn (courtesy of charlotte Symphony)

Alex Wilborn (courtesy of Charlotte Symphony)

Orchestral concerts don’t often feature a trumpet concerto. Solo honors go most frequently, of course, to pianists and violinists. But when a trumpet concerto is offered, it’s most often the more familiar classical-era ones by Joseph Haydn or Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Böhme’s concerto, written in 1899, is lushly romantic. Oskar Böhme (1870-1938) was a German composer and trumpeter who later lived in the Soviet Union but ran afoul of the Stalin regime on a probable false charge and was executed. His Trumpet Concerto may be his best-known work. It’s a demanding piece, but Wilborn was fully up to the task.

It features an abundance of running scales and leaping fanfare-like phrases that traverse a few octaves, testing a virtuoso’s technique as it moves along at a fair clip in the first and third movements. Wilborn negotiated all of these episodes with confidence and crisp articulation. The prayerful second movement, meanwhile, was beautifully phrased by Wilborn.

Wilborn brought an overall burnished tone to the work, brilliant in the upper register, and round and dark-tinged in the mid-level register.



A tall man with red hair and a beard, Wilborn was a winning performer, exhibiting a jovial charm as he announced an orchestra-accompanied encore: Jean-Baptiste Arban’s short but dazzling Carnival of Venice. Wilborn dashed off the solo part with devil-may-care aplomb.

Incidentally, I’m a longtime advocate for the encore, which almost always seems to greatly please an audience — and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Conductor JoAnn Falletta. (credit: Steve J. Sherman)

Conductor JoAnn Falletta. (credit: Steve J. Sherman)Orchestra in their Lukas Foss Centennial Celebration at Carnegie Hall, 10/3/22.

Falletta also led a restless and haunting account of A Short Piece for Orchestra by the African American composer Julia Perry.

In addition, Falletta conducted powerful accounts of two of the core works of the German repertoire: the “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner and Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss. Under Falletta’s leadership, the works surged with romantic fervor. I particularly enjoyed Falletta’s deliberate, expansive account of the “Transfiguration” music, a victorious apotheosis.

Knight Theater, with a capacity of 1,192, is a particularly “live” concert space, which means that the big brassy moments shine brightly, as they did at this fine performance.

Beautiful Baroque

Postscript: An earlier Greenville Symphony chamber concert on March 2 at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre spotlighted Caroline Robinson, organist and associate choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.

Caroline Robinson (courtesy of Greenville Symphony Orchestra)

Caroline Robinson (courtesy of Greenville Symphony Orchestra)

Robinson, who has also played continuo for the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and other ensembles, served as the soloist in Philip Glass’ Harpsichord Concerto. Robinson played the solo part in this appealing 2002 concerto with sensitivity and chiseled clarity.

In writing for an instrument associated with the Baroque, Glass seems to channel music from that era, giving the second movement a lovely longlined melody and writing sprightly music for the outer movements.

The Glass concerto featured some glowing solo work by concertmaster Jacqueline Tso.

Gary Robinson (courtesy of Greenville Symphony Orchestra)

Gary Robinson (courtesy of Greenville Symphony Orchestra)

On the podium was guest conductor Gary Robinson, Caroline Robinson’s father, who offered vigorous accounts of music by Johann Friedrich Fasch, Ottorino Respighi and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Particularly memorable was the otherworldly beauty of the “Air” from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3. For that movement, Gary Robinson had the violinists play some nuanced ornamentation which they rendered with grace.

Gary Robinson is a 40-year member of the orchestra’s percussion section. Perhaps that’s why the chamber orchestra was so marvelously responsive to his conducting. These were longtime colleagues performing in heartfelt sympathy and unity.

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About the author:
Paul Hyde, a longtime journalist, teaches English at a college in South Carolina. He writes regularly for Classical Voice North America, ArtsATL, the Greenville Journal and the South Carolina Daily Gazette. Readers may find him on X at @paulhyde7 or write to him at paulhydeus@yahoo.com.

Read more by Paul Hyde.

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