June 14, 2007

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Very easy on the ears
Nashua Chamber Orchestra premieres English Horn concerto
By Jeff Rapsis jrapsis@hippopress.com

File this under something you don’t get to hear every day: the first performance of a new concerto for English horn.

The work, commissioned recently by the Nashua Chamber Orchestra and written by composer Robert Edward Smith, had its world premiere earlier this month with local musician Cathy Macintyre handling the solo part.

Smith’s three-movement concerto emerged as a playful and melodic work full of beautiful passages and very easy on the ears.

As performed on Saturday, June 2, at Daniel Webster College, the work was a solid and well-rounded success, with Macintyre in total control of the solo part.

Written in a conservative idiom, Smith’s piece was a solid piece of workmanship that seems to fit the English horn perfectly, acknowledging its fundamentally mournful qualities but also bringing out a lightness and grace that’s not often heard from this instrument.

Unusual for new music, the concerto unfolded with a comfortable familiarity, which I think aided its immediate appeal. It certainly deserves to be heard again.

In the “old music” category, conductor David Feltner led the group through a lively performance of Mendelssohn’s familiar “Italian” Symphony No. 4. It’s a piece that gives the string section a real workout, but the community group was up to the challenge — the finesse needed to carry off Mendelssohn was never once lost, even in the busy finale, with other sections spot-on as well.

• Nashua Symphony announces season: The Nashua Symphony recently released programs for the 2007-08 season, and the schedule includes some exciting stuff. The orchestra is searching for a new music director following Royston Nash’s retirement in April; next season will see a series of guest conductors strutting their stuff in what amounts to a season-long audition process to find a new leader.

Among the highlights: Jonathan Schiffman leads Beethoven’s energetic Symphony No. 7 on Sept. 22; Karla Lemon conducts Stravinsky’s roof-raising Firebird Suite on Oct. 20; an “unfinished business” concert on Nov. 17 that includes Ives’ Unanswered Question and Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8; Barber’s Violin Concerto in March; Randall Thompson’s “Peaceable Kingdom” in April, and more.

For tickets or info, call 595-9156 or visit nashuasymphony.org.

• Monadnock Music free chamber concerts starting July 12: One of the best classical music deals of summer is the series of free concerts by Monadnock Music in small churches and meetinghouses in towns west of the Merrimack Valley. Top musicians jamming together in small intimate setting s—what’s not to like?

The program starts on Thursday, July 12, with an 8 p.m. performance at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, and runs through late August. Some are way the hell out by Vermont; among those closer to us are Thursday, July 26, at 8 p.m. in Milford Town Hall; Saturday, July 28, at 8 p.m. at Francestown Old Meetinghouse; Friday, Aug. 3, at 8 p.m. at Deering Community Church; Thursday, Aug. 9, at 8 p.m. at Wilton Center Unitarian Church; and Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. in Temple Community Church.

No details about the music or performers yet, but Monadnock has a 40-year reputation for good, challenging programs always played at a very high level. Worth an evening’s drive into the country to check it out.

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