November 11, 2010

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Classical fun with Nashua Chamber
A little ridiculous, a lot sublime in new concert
By Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com

David Feltner, conductor of the Nashua Chamber Orchestra, wants to remind people that classical music can be fun. The orchestra’s newest concert, “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime,” looks like it will accomplish that goal.

As is typical of Feltner, the concert blends a variety of works and composers. It will feature Robert Schumann, George Frederic Handel, American Norman Dello Joio, Felix Mendelssohn and P.D.Q. Bach. Actually, the last name is not a real composer. It is a fictional character created by Professor Peter Schickle and is supposed to be an unknown child of Johann Sebastian Bach. P.D.Q. Bach’s work was alleged to be discovered in 1954 in a castle in Bavaria. Schickle has composed several works under this character and they are all humorous and have jokes for everyone but particularly for classical music insiders, according to Feltner.

While Schickle’s work covers the “ridiculous” from the title, Feltner said the concert is very heavy on the sublime. When he created the program, Feltner knew he wanted Schumann to be the center around which he would build everything else.

“It is like a chef creating a menu,” Feltner said. “First you chose your main course and then you find the appetizers and wine that go with it.”

Schumann’s work flaunts the cello and so Feltner called upon a relationship more than 15 years in the making. Feltner and renowned area flutist Julia Scolnik were graduate students together at the New England Conservatory. Feltner has known Julia’s son, Sasha Scolnik-Brower, since he was born. But it had been years since he’d heard the young man play the cello. A mutual friend sent Feltner a YouTube video of Scolnik-Brower performing and Feltner couldn’t believe how well he played. He asked Scolnik-Brower to play with the Nashua Chamber Orchestra.

To think none of this might have happened had Scolnik-Brower loved to stand.

Scolnik-Brower began playing the violin at age five but he hated it. He switched to the cello, which he instantly loved. What was the difference?

“I really enjoyed sitting,” Scolnik-Brower said.

It has been a fruitful decision for the sophomore at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. As a member of the Boston Youth Symphony, he has toured in Germany and the United Kingdom. In Germany, Scolnik-Brower said, he was able to visit arts-focused schools and stay with local families. He said it was a great experience.

Scolnik-Brower said some of his closest friendships were with his fellow members of the Boston Youth Symphony. He said they have all known each other a long time and have similar interests.

Another great experience was performing a small concert in France with his mother and his piano-playing sister, Julia.

“We played in a local church,” Scolnik-Brower said. “Even though we all play compatible instruments we don’t always play together. So it was a lot of fun. The French have a similar perspective on music, but it was cool hearing them speak French in the audience.”

Scolnik-Brower said Schumman had starting going insane by the time he wrote his cello concerto. After submitting a draft, Schumman jumped off a bridge and was committed to a mental institute.

“It’s a lot of fun to play,” Scolnik-Brower joked. “But I won’t get too carried away.”

Feltner works hard to balance exposing people to new works and still providing familiar favorites. He said people are often unsure whether they’ll like a new work and it takes time to develop trust in a conductor to know it will be good. Feltner said he has been with his symphony in Boston a bit longer and people have told him he has now gained their trust.

“When you’re trying to market an event sometimes you don’t know whether to play up or play down that it is something new,” Feltner said. “There are two types of people: explorers, who love to travel and try new things, and comfort people, who like to stay home and eat the same meal. Both are satisfying.”

Feltner said all it takes is one experience, whether it be bad or good, to make an impression on someon Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. in the Milford Town Hall on the Milford Oval.


Nashua Chamber Orchestra
When: Saturday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. at Daniel Webster College’s Collings Auditorium, 20 University Drive, Concord, and on Sunday, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. in the Milford Town Hall on the Milford Oval.
Tickets: $17 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students, free for children under 12.
Info: www.nco-music.org, 554-6164 or 566-6024.

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