Christof Perick leads his next-to-last set of concerts as the Charlotte Symphony's music director this weekend. He'll venture away from the German and Austrian music that's his native territory to lead a program dubbed "Russian Spectacular."
Perick in Moscow: Though Perick has devoted most of his time to Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and their musical heirs, he has covered more ground than some concertgoers may realize. In an all-Russian program in 2004, for example, he spurred a fiery performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9.
This weekend: The concerts will start with a popular showcase for virtuoso string playing, the overture to Mikhail Glinka's "Russlan and Ludmilla." Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony will bring the climax. For all of Tchaikovsky's intensity, Perick doesn't think the "Pathetique" deserves the charge sometimes leveled at it of being maudlin. He says it's powerful music in the same symphonic framework of other musical greats.
Return guest: Perick is bringing back soprano Heidi Meier, who lent her silvery tones to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" and Mozart arias in two visits in 2008. Back home in Germany, Meier is a member of the Nuremberg State Opera, where Perick is the chief conductor. That's the job that will take up even more of Perick's time once he's done in Charlotte.
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Rare treat: Meier will solo in the Concerto for Coloratura Soprano by Reinhold Gliere. Gliere, born in 1875, was an approximate contemporary of Rachmaninoff, and his music shares some of Rachmaninoff's richness and long-breathed lyricism. He's best known for the lusty "Russian Sailors Dance" from his ballet "The Red Poppy." But his two-movement concerto for soprano - who sings no words, just "ah" - is in a gentler vein. Its spacious first movement is particularly akin to Rachmaninoff's. The finale is a swaying, glittery waltz.
Full circle: Perick's finale as the orchestra's leader will be April 22-24, when he leads the orchestra and Oratorio Singers of Charlotte in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - the same music that raised the curtain on his tenure with the orchestra in September 2001. It won't be Charlotte's last sight (and sound) of Perick, though. He'll return for a weekend of concerts next season, sporting his new title of conductor laureate.