Music — The Year's Best Concerts And Opera

The Year's Best Concerts And Opera

By Jeff Rapsis

2004’s top 10 classical performances in southern NH

The past year saw lots of classical music made locally. What were the high points? Here’s a ranking of the top 10 performances by southern New Hampshire groups, with snippets from the original Hippo reviews:

• 1. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in D minor, the “Resurrection,” New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, Manchester Choral Society, Concord Chorale, Rockingham Choral Society, April 23 and 24 at Ste. Marie’s Church, Manchester. Conductor: Kenneth Kiesler. “Simply some of the biggest, boldest music to be made in Manchester in recent years … by turns exciting, frightening, exhilarating, and at all times completely compelling.” 

• 2. Symphonie Espagnol by Eduard Lalo, New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra, March 13 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Soloist: Elliot Markow. Conductor: Anthony Princiotti. “From the opening phrases to the concluding passagework, Markow was in the zone, roaring through big sections with passion and verve but also finding exquisitely phrased and realized moments again and again. Markow’s consistent brilliance was ably backed by the NHPO musicians, who were in top form in all sections.”

• 3. Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” Granite State Opera on Nov. 19 and 21 at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts. Conductor: Phil Lauriat. “A production that more than pleased the audience. … Janice Edwards as Marcellina gives one of her best performances in this role I’ve ever seen. Another top star of the show was David Kratviz as the lecherous Count Almaviva. Kravitz has a wonderful voice, but his stage mannerisms are also really impressive and he has an innate comedic gift.”

• 4. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov, Nashua Symphony Orchestra, Sept. 11 at Keefe Auditorium in Nashua. Soloist: Alexander Korsantia. Conductor: Royston Nash. “Tackling is perhaps too mild a word to describe Korsantia’s approach. Rather, he openly attacked the old Steinway, storming up and down the keyboard and bringing out every bit of virtuoso flourish that Rachmaninoff put into the 20-minute score.”

• 5. Symphony No. 2 in D major by Johannes Brahms, Granite State Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 2 at City Auditorium, Concord. Conductor: Robert C. Babb. “Remarkable for its clarity, intensity, and sunny spirit. … Babb brought out detail and inner voices that I’d never heard before in this familiar work. Another rehearsal might have cleaned up some places where the playing wasn’t on the button. But that might have risked the spontaneity of the performance, which filled the hall with a great deal of fresh-sounding music. At its best, it sounded almost as if they were just making it up right there on the spot.”

• 6. Clarinet Concerto by Aaron Copland, the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, March 26 and 27 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Soloist: Richard Stoltzman. Conductor: Kenneth Kiesler. “At Friday night’s performance, Stoltzman and the NHSO gave the concerto their all, filling the Palace with Copland’s music, some of it calm, much of it lively, jumpy, and syncopated. It was a fearless adventure into some very tricky stuff.”

• 7. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Granite State Opera, Jan. 23 and 25 at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts.  Conductor: Phil Lauriat. “...a thoroughly delightful production of Mozart’s opera … Credit Stage Director Robert Lawson for a “set” as far from the bulky opulence of traditional opera scenery as one can get. … Phil Lauriat … has given professional and amateur artists in our state the opportunity to perform a great opera on a high artistic level, honoring both New Hampshire artists and audiences, and, indeed, Mozart himself.”

• 8. “Tosca” by Puccini, Opera New Hampshire, Oct. 29 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Conductor: Silvia Casarin-Rizzolo. “Soprano Susan Foster gave a heroic performance in the lead role, going for broke in the big moments and having the chops to bring it off. Acting skills helped, but it was her polished voice—smooth and supple and ready for anything—that earned a show-stopping ovation for “Vissi d’arte,” the famous Act II aria about her dedication to love and art.”

• 9. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Nashua Symphony Orchestra, April 17. Soloist: Per Tengstrand. Conductor: Royston Nash. “Tengstrand seemed at his very best in the work’s simplest passages. He took sequences that might be technically easy – unornamented single-note melodies with a simple bass – and turned them into demonstrations of utmost musicality. … Nash, in perfect harmony with Tengstrand, knew when to bring out the music and when to lie back.”

• 10. Mass in G major by Schubert, New Hampshire Philharmonic and the UNH Concert Choir, May 1 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Conductor: Anthony Princiotti. “You could have practiced your Latin if you wanted to. That’s how clear and crisp the choral singing was … Prepared by director Bill Kempster, the chorus had a high batting average throughout the five-part work. The group displayed a bright and assured sound that helped Schubert’s music seem freshly urgent and compelling. While capturing the impromptu spirit that pulses through the piece, the singers at the same time managed to be fussy about pronouncing the text with clarity and precision.”

— Jeff Rapsis

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH