After conducting music from his British homeland for his first concerts as head of the Charlotte Symphony, Christopher Warren-Green is paying tribute to his new home - the United States - for his follow-up. That's the official explanation, anyway.
The overture to Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" certainly fits the American theme. So does the "New World" Symphony by Dvorak, a Czech who spent time over here. But Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2? The closest thing to a rationale I can think of is that, years after Rachmaninoff wrote it, he moved here from Russia.
Whatever. The important thing is that Warren-Green made himself and the orchestra at home with all of it Friday night.
"Candide" delivered generous doses of rhythmic punch and Broadway flashiness. The "New World" took a pratfall early on, when the woodwinds' first chord came in by the installment plan instead of all at once. But after that, the orchestra's fire, buoyancy and lyricism took over.
The "New World" is another big 19th-century symphony that needs a larger string section than the Charlotte Symphony can afford. There were a few times Friday when the brasses' booming impact was more than the strings could match. But more often than not, the strings' eagerness and drive added an intensity of their own.
When Dvorak simmered down, Warren-Green treated him to more of the delicacy and warmth that paid off two weeks ago with Elgar. Warren-Green made the much-loved slow movement more flowing than it usually is. The "Goin' Home" tune didn't merely head home more quickly. It unfolded in a single swell of feeling each time it appeared. It was sweet without being syrupy.
Warren-Green and the young pianist Natasha Paremski eliminated syrup from Rachmaninoff, too. Sometimes there was a little push or pull when conductor and soloist didn't quite have the tempo worked out. But Paremski gave Rachmaninoff sleek lyricism and virtuoso sparkle. Warren-Green and the orchestra - especially the fiddles - lent mellowness to the tunes. And the audience's standing ovation was lustier than usual.