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Symphony to start with a big finish, live radio show

The Charlotte Symphony's first concerts of the season will culminate in one of the most blazing finishes in music, and it will resound beyond the Belk Theater.

Friday, Gustav Mahler's titanic Symphony No. 1 will cap the opening of the orchestra's 77th season. Saturday's concert will add a second milestone: the orchestra's first live radio broadcast in a decade.

When the concert goes out over the air, WDAV-FM (89.9) will give the orchestra a crack at a new audience.

“It's important to make us more well known to people who may not come to our concerts – and hopefully will come to our concerts in the future,” said Christof Perick, the orchestra's music director.

This weekend's program was picked for the broadcast, Perick said, simply because it's the opening of the season. But it happens to include a double helping of attention-getting music.

Excerpts from Mozart's “The Abduction from the Seraglio” will bring back the German soprano Heidi Meier, who debuted in Charlotte last spring in Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana.” In the earthy “Carmina,” Meier displayed a rare ability to sing with soulfulness as well as silvery purity. In “Abduction,” she'll turn to the heroics of a woman held captive by a Turkish pasha.

After intermission, the orchestra will turn to Mahler. His hourlong Symphony No. 1 paved the way for even bigger works of his own and for the cataclysmic symphonies that came from Dmitri Shostakovich and others of later generations, Perick noted.

Even with this first symphony, Mahler already calls for an extra-large orchestra – including seven French horns, for instance, rather than the typical four. The music's course is “an adventure,” Perick says.

The symphony embraces hymns to the outdoors; an eerie march based on a minor-key version of the folk song “Frere Jacques”; and tumultuous outbursts that give way to a big finish in luminous D major.

To many listeners, it's a happy ending. Perick isn't so sure. He isn't convinced that all the tensions Mahler unleashes are conquered. But after conducting the symphony at least a couple of dozen times, Perick said, he is certain about the experience of doing it.

“It's always,” he said, “a thrill.”

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