Review: Richmond Symphony

Valentina Peleggi conducting
with Melissa White, violin
Oct. 17, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center

Mozart’s compositions, especially those of his late teen-age and early adulthood, were long characterized as “porcelain figurine” music – attractively tuneful and finely crafted, but lacking depth or weight. His five violin concertos certainly can be played and heard that way. Even heavy applications of romantic-style string tone don’t substantially bulk them up, merely replacing porcelain with velvet cushions and silver tracery.

Melissa White, a founding member of the Harlem Quartet and solo violinist of rising prominence, coaxed both silver tone and lyrical substance from Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, in the second of the Richmond Symphony’s fall Masterworks programs, the first conducted by Valentina Peleggi, the orchestra’s new music director.

White and Peleggi were interpretively in synch in the Mozart, emphasizing lyricism and tonal richness even in the work’s most brilliant passages. This treatment was naturally most effective in the concerto’s adagio, but also amplified the enticingly sighing quality to the first movement and heightened the contrast of the finale’s minuet with its gutsy central minor-key dance (source of the concerto’s nickname, “Turkish”).

The violinist’s work in chamber music showed throughout the performance, in which she subtly graded tone and projection to blend with the accompanying strings of the orchestra. That made her big solo moments, especially the cadenzas, all the more prominent.

Peleggi framed the Mozart with two works for string orchestra, Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances” Suite No. 3 and Dvořák’s Serenade in E major, Op. 22. In both, as in the Mozart, she adopted measured tempos and emphasized richness of tone and rhythmic fluidity. That approach was more suited to the Dvořák, a romantic masterpiece, than to the Respighi, a neo-classically accented updating of Renaissance and early baroque music that needs more rhythmic crispness than it received in this performance, which I saw and heard on an online stream from the second of three weekend concerts.

The program opened with undoctored early music: the “Canzon Septimi Toni” No. 2 of Giovanni Gabrieli, played with robust sonority by an octet of trumpets and trombones, paired in two choirs. The work’s antiphonal effects weren’t quite what the composer intended – to be produced across the nave of Venice’s San Marco Cathedral from opposing balconies – but came across remarkably well on the Carpenter Theatre stage.

The live stream of the concert crashed for real-time viewers. A full video of the concert went online late on Oct. 18 – thus the lateness of this review.

The stream of the concert remains viewable through Nov. 17. Access: $20. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX);

New York Philharmonic cancels season

Another virus-inflected blow to the performing arts: The New York Philharmonic, which has not performed since March and had already called off this fall’s concerts, now has canceled orchestra concerts through June 2021, at a projected cost of $20 million in ticket sales.

“It is really fair to say that in the 178-year history of the Philharmonic, this is the single biggest crisis,” the orchestra’s president and chief executive, Deborah Borda, tells The New York Times’ Zachary Woolfe:

No escape?

Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post’s art and architecture critic, returns to the National Gallery of Art for the first time since March, hoping that “I might escape the outside world for a few hours, shut out the chaos and crisis,” only to find that “the vast majority of the objects were mute and meaningless, and only those that somehow referenced other periods of tumult and decline spoke with clarity. I had entirely lost my ability to experience art as escape.”

Kennicott was experiencing visual art, mainly sculpture. Is music – another art form he has covered, in St. Louis, then in DC – a more viable form of escape? Conceivably, in that much of it is “abstract” or highly subjective in meaning. Music often is mood-altering, but perhaps just as often mood-intensifying.

Music’s power also diminishes with over-exposure – the more you hear, the more easily it becomes background sound.

Exposure with discretion to music of high intellectual or sensory octane can be liberating from real-world concerns, if you listen closely and with care.

October calendar

The Richmond Symphony continues its socially distanced concerts before limited-capacity audiences at the Carpenter Theatre of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets: Its Pops series opens with Chia-Hsuan Lin, its associate conductor, leading a concert featuring the Cuban-style bolero group Miramar at 8 p.m. Oct. 3. Tickets: $28-$82. . . . Valentina Peleggi conducts the first Masterworks series program since her appointment as music director, with Melissa White as soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, and the orchestra’s strings playing Dvořák’s Serenade in E major, Op. 22, at 7 p.m. Oct. 16, 8 p.m. Oct. 17 and 3 p.m. Oct. 18. The Oct. 17 concert will be live-streamed online. Tickets: $10-$82; access to stream: $20. . . . Valentina Peleggi leads the Richmond Symphony Wind Ensemble in Richard Strauss’ serenades, Opp. 4 and 7; Verne Reynolds’ arrangement of music by Schubert into a “Little Symphony for Winds;” and Jean Françaix’s “Musique pour faire plaisir,” 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at Reveille United Methodist Church, 4200 Cary Street Road. Tickets: $20. . . . Chia-Hsuan Lin conducts the orchestra, with members of the Latin Ballet of Virginia, in “Día de los Muertos,” a family program marking the Mexican holiday The Day of the Dead, at 11 a.m. Oct. 31. The concert will be played to a live audience and live-streamed. Tickets: $10-$48; access to stream: $10. Details: (800) 514-3849 (ETIX);

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia presents flutist Brandon George, guitarist John Marcel Williams and cellist James Wilson in Bernhard Romberg’s “Divertimento on Austrian Themes,” Guillaume Connesson’s Toccata-Nocturne and Astor Piazzolla’s “L’Histoire du Tango” at 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at Historic Mankin Mansion Private Wedding & Event Estate, 4300 Oakleys Lane in Highland Springs. Tickets: $5-$30. Details: (804) 304-6312;

The Richmond chapter, American Guild of Organists presents Robert McCormick in a recital at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at St. Bridget Catholic Church, 6006 Three Chopt Road. All available seats for the socially distanced concert have been reserved, but the program will be live-streamed and subsequently viewable on YouTube at

Virginia Opera’s resident artists perform at 10 a.m. Oct. 3 at the Virginia Zoo, 3500 Granby St. in Norfolk. Limited-capacity tickets to the zoo, $14.95-$17.95, apply for admission to the performance. . . . The troupe continues its Stayin’ Alive concerts throughout the Hampton Roads region: “Voce e Vino” at 3 p.m. Oct. 3 at SummerWind Vineyard, 71 Eagles Nest Lane in Smithfield (free admission); a free outdoor concert at 11 a.m. Oct. 5 at Elizabeth River Park, 1400 Elizabeth River Way in Chesapeake; a performance at Jamestown Settlement at noon Oct. 6 ($8.25-$17.50 admission to the settlement); a free family concert at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at Five Points Neighborhood Spot, 6123 Sewells Point Road in Norfolk; a free concert at 11 a.m. Oct. 8 at New Quarter Park, 1000 Lakeshead Drive in Williamsburg; a free curbside concert at 11 a.m. Oct. 10 at Suffolk Presbyterian Church, 410 N. Broad St.; and “Opera at the Vineyard” at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Williamsburg Winery, 5800 Wessex Hundred (free admission). . . . The company’s resident artists visit the Richmond area for Stayin’ Alive performances at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the American Civil War Museum at Tredgar, 480 Tredegar St. in downtown Richmond; 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at Agecroft Hall & Gardens, 4305 Sulgrave Road in Windsor Farms; 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, 2880 Mountain Road; and 2 p.m. Oct. 31 in a concert sponsored by the Underground Kitchen at the Roslyn Retreat Center, 8727 River Road. . . . The Martinis Manhattans Maestros series, with hosts Adam Turner and Brandon Eldredge, continues with “Game Night” at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5, streamed on YouTube: . . .The Wednesday Wind Down series of live performances continues at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 7 on the lawn of Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard in Norfolk. Details:

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Other major local and regional performing troupes and presenters have scheduled no performances with audiences present through the end of the year. Several are presenting “virtual” online events, some ticketed, others free. Check with organizations and venues for details.