Fall Concerts, 2009

Kick off the 2009—2010 concert season with the Nashua Chamber Orchestra and maestro David Feltner in their all-star opener on Saturday, November 14, at the Nashua Senior Center, 70 Temple Street, 8:00 PM, and Sunday, November 15, at Milford Town Hall on the oval, at 3:00 PM.  The program includes works by two living composers, Gandolfi and Rautavaara, along with favorites by Beethoven, Honegger and Schubert. Highlighting the “Windswept” theme of this concert, bassoonist Gregory Newton is the featured artist in the vivacious Bassoon Concerto by Boston area composer, Michael Gandolfi.  Tickets ($15 adult, $13 senior and $8 student) are available at the door, or in advance at Darrell’s Music Hall in Nashua and the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford’s Lorden Plaza.

Setting the stage is the rousing program opener, Beethoven’s Overture to King Stephen, Op. 117 (1812).  It was written for the theatre production of King Stephen, which recounts the tale of this Hungarian national hero who was crowned king in the year 1000, and who later converted his people to Christianity.  Brimming with restless energy, the Overture sets a brisk pace punctuated by dynamic contrasts and the compelling rhythmic drive so characteristic of Beethoven’s musical idiom.  Beethoven incorporates elements of Hungarian folk music, specifically in the prominent, syncopated rhythmic figure (TA taaa, ta TA), imitating the rhythm of the Hungarian language in which every word is accented on the first syllable.

Presenting a stark contrast in mood, La Pastorale d’ete (Summer Pastorale, 1920) is a tranquil, dreamy composition by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger (1892—1955). It was inspired by his summer vacation in Wengen, a beautiful Swiss town nestled at the base of the Jungfrau.  Composed in A-B-A form, the piece opens with a serene theme played by the French horn and taken up by the strings in canon.  The contrasting B section picks up the tempo, introducing two themes paying homage to Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony. The concluding section brings back the opening melody, artfully juxtaposing it with the themes from the middle section.  La Pastorale d’ete garnered the Prix Verley at its first performance in 1921.

Melrose native Michael Gandolfi (b. 1956) is a “Renaissance Man” whose achievements and awards, too numerous to list here, are fueled by his endless curiosity.  The product of a musical family, he developed improvisational skills at age eight as a self-taught guitarist, before beginning formal composition studies in his early teens. His music frequently draws inspiration from other disciplines such as science, visual arts and theatre.  His interest in jazz is evident in the Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (2007).  Relishing a challenge, he composed this piece in three weeks during the fall of 2007.  Replete with catchy motifs and syncopated rhythms, the Concerto sets up a dynamic dialogue between orchestra and soloist, in a variety of tonalities and moods.  Bassoon soloist Gregory Newton is one of New England’s most active musicians in orchestral and chamber music, performing under the baton of such prominent conductors as Keith Lockhart, John Williams and Harry Ellis Dickson. His facile virtuosity showcases the colors and agility of his instrument in this swinging concerto.

 The Fiddlers (“Pelimannit”), op. 1, is a 1952 work by Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928), the leading Finnish composer of his generation and one of the most notable after Sibelius.  In a musical idiom ranging from serialism to Romanticism, his compositions span a variety of genres, including symphonies, concertos and operas.  The Fiddlers was originally written for piano, and subsequently reworked by the composer into a suite for strings.  It is based on folk melodies from Ostrobothnia, the region of northwest Finland from which Rautavaara’s family comes. Each of these five short vignettes spins a unique mood, exploiting tonal and modal elements, lush melodic and harmonic textures, haunting, repeated figures and dramatic contrasts to create its own compelling, microcosmic world.

Franz Schubert (1797—1828) wrote his Symphony No. 5 in Bb Major, D. 485, in the fall of 1816, at the tender age of nineteen. Containing all the lyrical, melodic elements characteristic of his more than six hundred songs, it is at the same time reminiscent of Mozart, to whom it pays tribute.  Premiered by an amateur orchestra in the year it was written, the symphony languished in oblivion for some fifty years until it was rediscovered in 1867 by Sir Arthur Sullivan and Sir George Grove on a pilgrimage to Vienna, undertaken specifically to ferret out forgotten Schubertian gems.  Displaying Schubert’s genius in its vitality, exuberance, drama and lyricism, the Fifth Symphony hearkens back to classical Mozart while beckoning to dawning Romanticism with its lilting grace.  The scope of Schubert’s prodigious legacy and the poignancy of his heartbreakingly brief thirty-one years leave one wondering what might have been.