Winston-Salem Symphony opens season with expertise and flair

Robert Moody
Winston-Salem Journal

Upon entering the Stevens Center on a beautiful early-fall afternoon for the Winston-Salem Symphony’s opening concert of the 2015-16 season, the audience was greeted with a stage overflowing with orchestra players.

And upon the entrance of Maestro Robert Moody, the full house assembled was soon lustily singing the National Anthem.

In the last movement, St. John seemed to lead the orchestra on a merry chase. Moody is a wonderfully sympathetic fellow, an adroit conductor, and it must be a delight for a visiting artist to work with him, for he is right there with the orchestra at every nuance and tempo. The audience was thrilled.

After intermission, we heard the Hector Berlioz “Symphonie Fantastique” and viewed the impressive presence of two harps, two large bells, a bass drum, and two sets of timpani at stage right and left. When premiered at the Paris Conservatoire in 1830, it created a furor partly because of the loudness of the oversized orchestra.

The piece, written only six years after Beethoven’s towering ninth symphony, is not in typical symphonic form and seems worlds away from its predecessor. Titled “Episode in the Life of an Artist: Symphonie Fantastique, in Five Parts,” it presented an autobiographical story describing the composer’s opium-induced dreams of unrequited love for an actress and ended with a dramatic “March to the Scaffold” containing the famous “Dies irae” or “Day of Wrath” from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass for the dead.

Berlioz’s inventive and masterful use of novel combinations of instruments plus his adoption of the so-called “fixed idea” in which the same set of pitches is transformed into different motives in order to portray various emotions, made his symphony a landmark work, one that scandalized his Parisian audience, and that still felt inventive and original in the performance Sunday afternoon.

Much of the writing demands virtuoso performance, and the players, led by Maestro Moody, really delivered the goods with expertise and flair.

Read the rest of the review here