Music — NH Philharmonic’s 100th season

NH Philharmonic’s 100th season

Anniversaries and more in Quarter Notes

By Jeff Rapsis [jrapsis@hippopress.com]

This weekend’s New Hampshire Philharmonic concert features new players in the orchestra, a guest soloist, and music by a popular film composer who never saw a movie in his life.

The composer is Edvard Grieg, whose Piano Concerto in A minor is one of the classical world’s great treasure chests of melodies. Soloist will be Yuko Momo Shinohara, a Japanese pianist who has collaborated in prior concerts with Anthony Princiotti, the Philharmonic’s music director.

The Manchester-based orchestra will perform the Grieg concerto and a selection of other popular classical works for the opening concert of its 100th season. The performance is Sunday, Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St. 

Grieg, a Norwegian composer of the 19th century, had a knack for great tunes-so much so that his back catalog of works has been one of the most heavily raided by Hollywood and pop culture.

Because of that, Grieg has emerged as one of the most enduring composers of film scores, though he died in 1907, before the movies had graduated much beyond the nickelodeon stage.

A quick check finds Grieg’s music used on the soundtrack of dozens of movies of all types, including Rat Race (2001), Rock and Roll Frankenstein (1999), Soylent Green (1973), and Son of Lassie (1948).

Grieg’s melodies proved bankable enough for Hollywood to attempt to create a movie musical based on them. The result was a legendary flop called Song of Norway (1970), a pseudo-biography of the composer’s early life in which his wife Nina was played by a soon-to-become-Mrs.-Brady Florence Henderson.

Before any of this came Grieg’s piano concerto, which he penned in 1868 at the ripe old age of 25. The three-movement work, one of the composer’s few works written on a large scale, is filled from start to finish with memorable, hummable melodies.

Even if you’ve never heard the concerto, you may find the music familiar; the opening melody of the first movement (following the dramatic timpani roll and flashy introduction from the keyboard) was used in the song “Asia Minor,” a top-ten pop hit from 1961.

Also on the program is Ravel’s brief but evocative Pavane on the Death of a Princess. Ravel did with music what French impressionist painters did with color. In an entirely different vein, Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute (also on the program) is a model of clarity and precision.

The music is rounded out by a big bombastic classic of Russian music, Tchaikovsky’s Overture/Fantasy on Romeo and Juliet, with its soaring love-theme-to-end-all-love themes.

To further hone the community orchestra’s sound, a handful of professional players have joined the group as section leaders this season.

Princiotti will lead a pre-concert discussion of the program in the Palace Theatre at 2 p.m.; all concert-goers are welcome.

Tickets for the Philharmonic’s season-opening concert are $15 to $30 from the Palace Theatre box office at 668-5588. For more information on the New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra, call 647-6476 or visit www.nhphil.org

Spencer Tracy would approve:

The staff and musicians of the Philharmonic are enjoying high spirits during their 100th season, judging from the latest edition of “The Phil,” a periodic e-mail newsletter the group issues. With the subject line “Resistance is futile,” the newsletter contains such detailed reporting as this:

“In a bold move, the orchestra has engaged four professional section leaders for the winds and brass.... The sonic change in rehearsal has been striking. Jaws are reported to have become slack during the glorious sound of Brian Gardell’s opening horn solo in the Ravel Pavane. With this gauntlet thrown down, the strings are making significant progress in becoming a crisp chamber ensemble, joined for this concert by local music educator Matt Green, as well as several of the finest student musicians in the state. To misapply Spencer Tracy’s saying about the late Katharine Hepburn, “what’s there is cherce.”

In other news, an interview with principal trombone player Rob Kruskol reveals that his arms “weren’t long enough to play the trombone until I was in 10th grade at the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City.”

What they do in Goffstown:

The high spirits overflowed at a fund-raising reception for the Philharmonic held Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Goffstown home of May Gruber, a long-time support of local arts organizations.

Following a chamber recital by local musicians Elliot Markow, George Lopez, Mimi Bravar, and Larry Veal, those assembled heard remarks by Manchester Mayor Bob Baines, who said he always wondered what people in Goffstown did on a Saturday afternoon, and now he knew.

Baines reiterated his support for building a modern performing arts center as Manchester’s next big thing. Baines also auctioned off a Chinese chest from the Gruber collection; altogether, the event raised about $4,000 for the orchestra.

—Seth Hoy

 
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