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Symphony's lineup of artists: Formidable yet affordable

Don't be distracted by the fact that no one as celebrated as Yo-Yo Ma, who played in Charlotte last fall, is headed our way this season. Classical musicians that celebrated are nearly nonexistent.

That isn't the only yardstick, though. Especially when money is tight - as it definitely is in recession-era Charlotte - musical groups take another tack. They go for young artists whose gifts are making them known, but whose fees haven't risen out of reach.

The Charlotte Symphony's new music director, Christopher Warren-Green, offers an example: Alison Balsom, a British trumpeter who will play with the orchestra in November. Before she launched her solo career - and even as it took off - she was a member of the ensemble he directs in their native England, the London Chamber Orchestra.

"She's really something to look forward to," Warren-Green says. "She makes the trumpet sing like a cello."

An actual cellist will be among the season's other notable young talents.

Alicia Weilerstein is a regular performer in the chamber-music concerts at the Spoleto Festival USA. Even while blending with colleagues, she projects passion and commitment.

When she solos with the Charlotte Symphony in the grand, noble strains of Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto, she'll really be able to let go.

Nobuyuki Tsujii shared the first prize in last year's Van Cliburn piano competition in Texas. The co-winner, Haochen Zhang, built a recital to an electrifying finish last season for Charlotte Concerts. If Tsujii - headed to Charlotte Concerts - impressed the Cliburn judges equally, he must be quite a power.

There are more familiar figures in store, too. The super-versatile vocal group Chanticleer will sing for Charlotte Concerts for at least the third time. Charlotte Symphony will spotlight its first-chair violinist, Calin Ovidiu Lupanu, in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

Late in the season, Stephen Hough, the British pianist who brings verve to music ranging from Mozart to his own arrangement of "Waltzing Matilda," will return to the Charlotte Symphony for the first time since 2001. In the meantime, Hough has received one of those famous $500,000 grants that the MacArthur Foundation gives to creative people to use as they want. Away from the piano, he has written a small religious book, "The Bible as Prayer."

Obviously, he's no ordinary pianist.

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