Winter Concerts, 2010

The Nashua Chamber Orchestra, conducted by David Feltner, will present a pair of concerts featuring the Concert Choir of Nashua High School South on Saturday, March 6, 8:00 PM at Nashua High School South, 36 Riverside Drive (off W. Hollis St., Route 3, exit 5W) and piano soloist Janice Weber on Sunday, March 7, 3:00 PM at Milford Town Hall on the oval.  The program features works by Robert Edward Smith, Diane Wittry and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with the Faure Requiem on Saturday, and the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 on Sunday.  Your ticket entitles you to attend both concerts, a great value at $15 adult, $13 senior and $8 student.  Children 12 and under are free.  Tickets may be purchased at the door, or in advance at Darrell’s Music Hall in Nashua and the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford’s Lorden Plaza.

Robert Edward Smith is composer in residence at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  His concert overture, Diana, Queen and Huntress, was intended to be part of a cycle of symphonic overtures that depict the personalities of several Roman goddesses.  The opening horn calls herald a wild hunt on horseback.  The stately march that follows depicts Diana’s royalty and chastity.  A recapitulation of the opening horn calls concludes the overture.

Let your imagination wander to the Italian isle of Elba.  You are in a villa looking out at the mist rolling in over the Tyrrhenian Sea, catching glimpses of the morning sun glimmering through the haze. That is where composer/conductor Diane Wittry wrote her first major work, Mist, scored for symphony orchestra, her main instrument as a conductor. “Mist is something intangible,” says the composer.  “You don’t feel it as much as you absorb it.”  She didn’t plan it, but rather let the music tell her where it wanted to go.  Transposing a visual image to the medium of sound, Ms. Wittry creates colorful sonorities using unconventional “instruments” such as rain sticks, and actual water pouring.  The interval of a tritone, half steps and diminished and minor chords, combine with a variety of textures and timbres to build a mysterious ambience of evocative sound.

Diane Wittry conducts the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Symphony and Norwalk (Connecticut) Symphony, championing exciting, innovative programming styles.  Mist, her first major work, was premiered with the Allentown Symphony in March, 2008.  Unlike many contemporary composers who use computer programs, she wrote her manuscript by hand.  “I like the look, the feel, of the hand-written score,” she says.  Her specific instructions in English help players and conductors interpret her music. “I want everyone to take risks, to not be tied up, to let the music come to life,” says Wittry.  “In my piece, the idea is to go for the overall shape of the phrases.”  The winner of many prestigious awards, she is also the author of a 2007 book, Beyond the Baton.

Mozart’s triumphal Symphony No. 41 in C Major is in ironic contrast to his life in 1788.  Beset with worries over his health, his debt, and his status in Vienna’s musical society, Mozart composed three extraordinary symphonies in the summer of that year.  Dubbed Jupiter by an English publisher in the 1820s, Symphony No. 41 was the composer’s last.  Aptly named for the King of the Gods in Greek mythology, the symphony personifies the majestic grandeur of its title.  Here, the ‘mature’ (age 32!) Mozart (1756—1791) displays the height of his musical genius with a seductive array of themes, intertwining, metamorphosing and frolicking deftly from one key to the next.  The moods range from unbridled exuberance to delicate serenity. In Mozart’s hands, a simple, descending major scale takes on a character all its own.  Replete with chromaticism, fugal sections and artful dialogue, the Jupiter is quintessential Mozart at his best, and amidst its joy, leaves the listener with more than a pang of regret that it was to be his last.

Gabriel Faure (1845—1924) composed his uniquely serene Requiem in 1887, after the death of his father. His mother died shortly after the work’s first performance in January, 1888.  The popular chamber orchestra setting was first performed in 1893 under Faure’s baton.  It uses a mixed choir, soprano and baritone soloist, low strings with the added color of a harp, organ and brass instruments. In its sequence of movements, the Requiem departs significantly from the standard liturgical texts.  The absence of violins and the omission of the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum, so tempestuous and overpowering in the Verdi and Berlioz Requiems, impart a darkly serene, intimate and gentle quality, enhanced by Faure’s graceful melodic lines with subtle gradations in dynamics, color and harmony.  Faure said in 1902, “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.”  In 1924, the Requiem was performed at Faure’s own funeral.

The Nashua Chamber Orchestra combines forces with the Nashua High School South Concert Choir under the direction of Sophia Santerre, for the Requiem.  The Concert Choir consists of 46 students, selected by audition.  They have received top ratings at New Hampshire music festivals, and at music competitions in Virginia and Canada.  They perform frequently with the Nashua Symphony. Sophia Santerre has been teaching music in New Hampshire public schools for over twenty-five years.  She is Director of Choirs and Music Theory at Nashua High School South, as well as Director of Music for the Nashua School District.  An adjudicator at state and local festivals, Ms. Santerre is an active member of the New Hampshire Music Educators Association, where she has served as President.  She holds a Masters in Music with an emphasis in Choral Conducting, from the University of Maine—Orono.

Sergey Rachmaninoff (1873—1943) is renowned for his three-fold gifts as pianist, composer and conductor, which vied for his attention, sometimes causing him to doubt himself.  He composed his Second Piano Concerto after a period of severe depression following the critical rejection of his First Symphony.  The Concerto No. 2 had its first complete performance in Moscow on October 14, 1901, with the composer at the piano.  It was dedicated to Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who used hypnotherapy to restore Rachmaninoff’s confidence, enabling him to write this great work. The concerto’s rhapsodic melodies, extravagant harmonies and lush texture are the epitome of the Romantic musical soul. The opening solo piano chords recall the tolling of Russian church bells, one of Rachmaninoff’s favorite sounds, hearkening to the awakening of his creative powers.  In contrast to the passion of the mighty opening theme, the lacy second theme creates an atmosphere of wistful nostalgia.  In dramatic dialogue with the piano, Rachmaninoff showcases all the instruments of the orchestra:  strings, woodwinds and brass.  The Adagio movement evinces a dreamlike atmosphere of tender longing. The allegro Finale opens with restless, pent-up energy that gives way to the hauntingly lyrical melody appropriated by popular songwriters.  This episodic concerto concludes with the glorious expression of this beautiful, singing theme.

Janice Weber is one of those rare artists who combine virtuoso technique with penetrating expressivity.  She has a penchant for unusual piano works and an extensive repertoire, with recordings including a world premiere recording of Liszt’s 1838 Transcendental Etudes.  A summa cum laude graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Ms. Weber has performed in such prestigious venues as the White House, Carnegie Hall, and Boston’s Symphony Hall.  In addition to numerous appearances in The U.S. and abroad, Ms. Weber has twice toured China.  A member of the piano faculty at Boston Conservatory, Ms. Weber amuses herself by writing mystery novels in her spare time, and is a published author.