February 9, 2005

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Classical Music: From Russia, with updating
Touring version of Die Fledermaus hits Concord this weekend
By Jeff Rapsis  jrapsis@hippopress.com

Smell the borscht and sauerkraut?
A Russian touring production of Die Fledermaus (that’s German for “The Bat”), the famed Strauss operetta, comes to New Hampshire this weekend, with performances in Keene, Lebanon, Portsmouth and Concord at the Capitol Center for the Arts on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 3 p.m., tickets $25 to $45. Call the box office at 225-1111 or visit www.ccanh.com.

Produced by the Moscow-based Helikon Opera, this Fledermaus is billed as an “update” of the fizzy tale of love and revenge in upper crust 19th century Vienna. Sung in German with English titles so you can follow the action.

Here’s a caution, however: An upstart opera company such as Helikon makes a name for itself in a big city (Moscow), where its edge productions stand out against the more conservative fare staged by mainstream houses and wins rave reviews. Then it goes on tour to places like New Hampshire. Shown out of the big city context, there’s a big chance that a non-traditional production won’t click with audiences. Possible end result: Newcomers to opera will go home saying “never again.” And local copmanies will feel the effect.
Will Helikon’s Die Fledermaus fit this pattern? Only one way to find out...

• Currier concert this weekend: Want to hear live chamber music (pieces written for just a handful of musicians) in southern New Hampshire? A concert on Sunday, Feb. 12, at Manchester’s Currier Museum is a great chance to hear some seldom-played scores performed by the New Hampshire Philharmonic Chamber Players, who rank as some of the area’s best musicians. The program includes the piano quartet of the early 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquin Turina, and the piano quintet of modern Brazilian composer Jovino Santos Neto. Neto blends jazz and classical music with indigenous Brazilian music. The program ends with the lush piano quartet of Gabriel Faure. Performers include violinist Elliott Markow, cellist Gary Hodges, violist Mimi Bravar, and pianist Arlene Kies. The music starts at 3 p.m. at the Currier Museum, 201 Myrtle Way, Manchester. Free with museum admission.

• Nashua Symphony tackles Brahms: Because it’s so familiar, the Symphony No. 3 of Brahms can be a tough score for a local orchestra to get across. Audiences generally know how it goes, and anything less than a highly polished reading will sound less than satisfactory. In a performance on Saturday, Feb. 4, the Nashua Symphony was up to the challenge, though the reading was marred by a few noticeably rough passages. Under conductor Royston Nash, the broad first movement felt curiously underpowered and suffered from some unfortunately sloppy ensemble work in some exposed string passages. The plaintive third movement, ordinarily a high point, started too loud, giving the music no way to build and blunting its effectiveness. But things came together for the dramatic fourth movement, with all sections contributing to one of the best “Sturm and Drang” passages in any Brahms score. The “heroic theme,” played on cellos and later joined by horns, was spine-tingling, as was the big key change from F major to F minor at the height of the melee.

• All Bach, all the time: Book I of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is the Boston Marathon of piano pieces. Clocking in at nearly 2½ hours, it takes stamina, endurance, and a solid sense of pacing to get through a live performance?and that’s just for the audience. But, in a rare local run-through of the entire work, pianist Birgit Matzerath made it all work. At a recital on Sunday, Feb. 5, the Concord Community Music School faculty member brought Bach’s landmark keyboard opus to life with a soft touch that emphasized the work’s melodic content, an often-overlooked asset of the 24 preludes and fugues. Sure, it’s a masterpiece of counterpoint, and Matzerath’s careful-but-not-cautious playing acknowledged that all of Bach’s moving lines could be heard clearly at all times. But the melodies, which can so easily sound like no more than dry exercises, here had a singing quality that in many parts showed the value of Bach’s writing as pure music. Rarely playing louder than forte, Matzerath mined the score for tunes rather than flash, and more often than not she found gold.

• Musical lunch break: ‘Sirens Song,’ a touring combo of two singers, will perform Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the next “Music’s on the Menu” concert sponsored by the Manchester Community Music School and Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Manchester. Soprano Angelynne Hinson and alto Melinda McMahon will be joined by local pianist Barbara Flocco to run through an hour’s worth of music. The concert fits into lunch schedules in downtown Manchester and the price (free) is right. Plus, it’s okay to bring your food with you, but lay off the potato chips for this one, will ya? The concert is at 12:10 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, corner of Pine and Lowell streets, Manchester. Admission: Free.

• ‘Art of the Voice’ in Manch: Want to hear some fine classical singing live (with piano accompaniment) right here in southern New Hampshire? Then check out the Feb. 16 concert of the Manchester Chamber Players, which features two members of the school’s vocal faculty and a first-class piano teacher, too. Performing will be soprano Donna Lombardo, mezzo-soprano Svetlana Pailler, and Tanya Shrago on piano. The Manchester Chamber Players concerts, which the music school runs each month, are attracting larger audiences this season—sometimes up to 100 people show up. The music starts Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., Gruber Recital Hall, Manchester Community Music School, 2291 Elm St., Manchester. Admission: Free.

• Mozart in Motown: The voice department of the Concord Community Music School will be the star of the school’s upcoming annual “Mozart in Motown” fundraising event on Saturday, Feb. 18, which includes a silent auction, live auction, great live music, and some potentially bizarre costume clashes. It’s a major fundraiser for the Concord Community Music School, one of the region’s best centers for professional musical instruction for students from a wide area of central New Hampshire. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Concord Community Music School. Admission is $95 per person, and will be limited to 125 tickets. For more info, call 228-1196.

• French music in Nashua, Milford: For its winter concerts on Feb. 18 and 19, the Nashua Chamber Orchestra will perform a concert of unusual scores by French composers. On the program: Les Nuits D’Ete (Summer Nights) by Berlioz (it’s a winter concert, but why not?), featuring mezzo-soprano Krista River; the Saint Saens Cello Concerto in A minor, with pre-teen cellist Jonah Park Ellsworth as soloist; and the Symphony No. 2 by Charles Gounod. The Gounod score is an especially rare treat for the ears, almost never played by anyone nowadays, at least in this country. Performances are Saturday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. in Collings Auditorium, Daniel Webster College, Nashua; Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at Milford Town Hall. Tickets: $14 adults, $12 seniors, $7 students, free for kids under 12.

• NH Philharmonic picks local youths: Three local high school musicians—a horn player, an oboeist, and a pianist—were among seven chosen as finalists in the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s fourth annual youth concerto competition. The young musicians will perform in a closed-door audition on Saturday, March 4, with the winner getting to appear as guest soloist with the orchestra next season. The three candidates from the Merrimack Valley are Timothy Gocklin, oboe, of Manchester; Samantha LeBlanc, horn, of Manchester; and Alexander Pince, piano, of Concord. The winning musician will be announced later in the month, which is a busy one for the NH Philharmonic: Gov. John Lynch has proclaimed March 4 to 11 as “NH Philharmonic Week,” and the orchestra is performing children’s concerts at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts on Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m. and at Keene’s Colonial Theatre on Sunday, March 19, at 2 p.m. For tickets and more info, visit www.nhphil.org.

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