Winter Concerts, 2008

The Nashua Chamber Orchestra, directed by David Feltner and featuring two exciting, young soloists, ushers you into spring on March 8 (Daniel Webster College Collings Auditorium, Nashua, 8:00 PM) and 9 (Milford Town Hall on the Milford Oval) with works by Vivaldi, Rameau, Arriaga and Britten.
  
Vintage Vivaldi vibrates with verve and vigor from the vivacious virtuoso violins of Bill Johnson and Sam Roseman.  Prize Students of Beth Welty, the orchestra’s accomplished and inspiring concertmistress, these local high school seniors have already compiled impressive musical dossiers, performing in venues such as Symphony Hall and Lincoln Center.  This opus 3 concerto (1711) is the eleventh of a set of twelve concerti known as L’Estro Armonico.  The two violin soloists are accompanied by cellist Marilyn Perry, a dedicated member of the NCO since 2004.  The lively outer movements, including a spirited fugue, enclose a soulful Largo, all in the key of D minor. If, as someone once quipped, “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto six hundred times,” this one, with its graceful, alluring melodies and rich interplay between soloists and orchestra, must be the template for all the others.

Sprightly rhythms and sonorous woodwind timbres captivate the ear in Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s Dance Suite (1735—1745).  The five movements are compiled from several of the composer’s popular ballets, as was the custom of the time.  The ornamented phrases conjure images of elegant French courtiers stepping and whirling adroitly to the engaging motifs.  No wonder the famed ballet master, Gardel, affirmed that “Rameau perceived what the dancers themselves were unaware of; we thus rightly regard him as our first master.”  The NCO woodwinds whet your appetite with this eclectic sampling of this prolific opera composer’s acclaimed ballets.

Infused with the exuberance of youth, yet tinged with a darker quality, Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga’s (1806—1826) Symphony in D Major (1823) provokes joy and melancholy at once, as the listener is left to ponder how this promising young composer might have developed, if only his life had spanned more than twenty brief years.  Arriaga, a luminous child prodigy born fifty years to the day after Mozart, has been dubbed the ‘Spanish Mozart’.  His music spans the period between the classicism of Mozart and the romanticism of Beethoven and Schubert, containing elements of both, but tending more toward classical forms.  This serious yet charming symphony, one of his last compositions, is finely crafted, with lyrical themes reminiscent of Schubert, and dynamic flashes of bravura temperament suggestive of Beethoven.  A treasure trove of interesting melodic ideas, harmonic tapestries and instrumental textures, Arriaga’s only symphony leaves the wistful listener vainly longing to hear the fruition of this germinal style, so rich with its unfulfilled, youthful promise.

Benjamin Britten, England’s prolific and most beloved twentieth century composer, was born on November 22nd, feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.  The son of musical parents, and a child prodigy like Mozart and Arriaga, he composed his first works at age five, amassing a considerable output by the time he was fourteen. At age twenty, in 1934, Britten wrote his Simple Symphony for string quartet or string orchestra, incorporating themes from his childhood, as early as age nine! Simple though it may be to identify the well defined themes, following their combinations and permutations becomes more complex, like recognizing characters in a novel, who appear disguised in different contexts.  Throughout this boisterous work with its intricate interplay of thematic elements, major and minor tonalities merge and metamorphose like a chiaroscuro painting.  From the opening declarative D minor chords, decisive rhythms propel the listener along with driving momentum, and the musicians, with demanding string technique.  Contrasts abound, but perhaps the most stark is the “Sentimental Sarabande” with its brooding intensity. The momentum is restored in the “Frolicsome Finale”. It is difficult to fathom how the composer managed to fit so much material into such a concise form.

The concert will take place on Saturday, March 8 at 8:00 PM, Daniel Webster College Collings Auditorium, Nashua, and Sunday, March 9 at 3:00 PM, Milford Town Hall on the Milford Oval.  Tickets are priced at $15 adult, $13 senior, and $8 students.  Children under 12 are free.  Tickets may be purchased at the door, online, or at Darrell’s Music Hall in Nashua, and Toadstool Books in Milford.  Each concert is followed by a reception, where audience members can meet the musicians.  Visit our website, www.nco-music.org, or phone (603) 554-6164, for more information.