The Hippo


Aug 23, 2019








Violinist Caroline Goulding. Courtesy photo.

Concert Preview

When: Thursday, Oct. 2, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St., Nashua, 589-4610
What: Bassist Robert Hoffman leads discussion about history, context and music of works by Wagner, Franck and Brahms, all featured in “Hearts Aflame.” Free
“Hearts Aflame”
Keefe Center for the Arts, Nashua: Saturday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m., $12 to $48, free for ages 5 to 15 
Peterborough Town House, Peterborough: Sunday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m., $12 to $35, free for ages 5 to 15
Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon: Saturday, Oct. 11, at 8 p.m., $12 to $25, free for ages 5 to 15
Contact:, 595-9156

Angsty premiere
Symphony NH opens with “Hearts Aflame”

By Kelly Sennott

Love. Lust. Longing. Heartbreak. 

Symphony NH music director and conductor Jonathan McPhee says the symphony’s Oct. 4 season opener, “Hearts Aflame,” contains “luxurious” music that makes you “want to cuddle up to somebody.” 
“One of the most important jobs a music director does is plan music for the entire season,” McPhee said in a phone interview. “What kind of music will audiences be excited to hear? What kind of music will musicians be excited to play? What kind of soloists will everyone want to play with?”
The program contains music from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, an epic love story of desire between two star-crossed lovers; Franck’s Symphony in D minor; and, perhaps most noteworthy, Brahms’ Violin Concerto, during which the symphony will be joined by Caroline Goulding.
Audiences may recognize Goulding; she performed in 2012 at age 20 to a rave response, with the “fastest, most immediate standing ovation” Symphony NH Executive Director Eric Valliere says he’s ever seen.
“As soon as her bow went down, the audience just leapt to its feet. I’m really excited to see what she’s going to do with the Brahms’ Violin Concerto,” Valliere said.
In the concerto, violin is king — ideal for showing off Goulding — but the oboe is also predominantly featured throughout the piece, particularly through the second movement, said principal oboist Cheryl Bishkoff, who’s been with Symphony NH for about 10 years. 
Among oboists, in fact, it’s often called the Brahms’ Oboe Concerto — one of the longest, most difficult solos oboists have to perform.
“The first measure has three of the hardest notes to play on the oboe. … And you have to play them sublimely or else it sounds terrible,” Bishkoff said. “A typical oboe solo in a concerto or a symphony is usually eight measures long. This has got to be 24.”
When the concerto first premiered, people were surprised.
“Usually in a concerto, the soloist gets the meaty stuff,” McPhee said. “It’s just the way concertos are built. … Even if you know the piece, the fact that the second movement starts out with this huge oboe part, you sort of momentarily forget it’s a violin concerto. … I don’t know why Brahms did this. ... It stands alone as one of those big, unique pieces.”
Bishkoff describes the tune as slow and meditative. When played well, the tune is so captivating that noted violinist Pablo de Sarasate refused to play it, claiming the only beautiful melody in the piece was given to the oboe. It’s also reminiscent of earlier composers, said symphony bassist Robert Hoffman. 
“Brahms is an interesting kind of person. Although he lived at the end of the 19th century, he was very much influenced by the formalism of 19th-century music. … The concerto has a very long introduction, and when the violinist comes in, it’s very classic, yet, when you listen to the piece, you’d never say it was a late 18th-century classical concerto because of the tension of the music,” Hoffman said. 
Hoffman and McPhee say you can hear the drama and the “Hearts Aflame” theme in the snippets taken from Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde, and also in Franck’s composition.
“One of the great things about music is that it’s really a universal language,” McPhee said. “Because of the music, you know when Darth Vader is coming in on the scene, and you know that he’s a bad guy. … When you hear the love in the music by Wagner and Brahms and Franck, you can easily imagine going into a story or a movie or a play that has a love story in it.” 
As seen in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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