Friday, March 29, 2013

Charlotte Concerts rebounds, drives and scores!

Why should March Madness be limited to basketball? Those of us who love classical music and dance have equal reason to be glad: Charlotte Concerts has announced its 2013-14 season, which boasts the biggest names in recent years and expands the roster from four concerts to five – including, for the first time in seven seasons, a Russian ballet company. (Get details at

The Observer wrote about the group’s struggles four years ago. It had moved into Central Piedmont Community College’s Halton Theater, a smaller venue than the Belk, trimmed its offerings from five to four and begun to book smaller ensembles.

These moves to save money have paid off, and the upcoming season boasts two of the biggest names in classical music: the Emerson String Quartet and Joshua Bell, new music director of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. (No word yet on whether the violinist will play with this great chamber orchestra or simply conduct it.)

The season should bring interesting programming, too. The Emersons, who open the season Sept. 20, specialize in modern music: They have won Grammys for Classical Album of the Year for the quartets of Bartok and Shostakovich.

Bell and the Academy, who close the cycle on March 27, will undertake a European tour next month playing works often done by bigger orchestras: Beethoven and Mendelssohn symphonies, violin concertos by Brahms and Bruch. (Bell is both playing and conducting on that trip.)

As usual, Charlotte Concerts will bring us the Van Cliburn Gold Medalist, whoever that may be: The pianist will be chosen in Texas this June and play in Charlotte Oct. 18. As unusual, Moscow Festival Ballet will be on the bill March 5; it last appeared here, doing “Swan Lake," in 2007. (Moscow Ballet has also done "Giselle" and "Don Quixote" in Charlotte. It specializes in 20th-century works, so maybe we’ll get some Prokofiev this time.)

The fifth concert on the season comes Jan. 29, when the Vienna Concert-Verein will play. If you were at its Austrian home last week, you’d have heard concerts pairing Mozart and Haydn with less-familiar fare, the Busoni Clarinet Concerto and Larsson’s Concerto for Clarinet and Strings. We should be so lucky!

Season subscriptions for the 84th season have gone on sale. You can get them only by calling the CPCC box office at 704-330-6534. That’s worth the effort; early bird subscriptions, which will be available through August 1, offer substantial savings. They range from $140 for the upper balcony to $220 for the center of the orchestra. The idea that I could hear the Emersons from a prime seat for $44 makes my ears smile.