BSO concert a stellar experience

Posted Jan. 30, 2012, at 1:06 p.m.

As astronomical as the overarching themes of Sunday’s Bangor Symphony Orchestra concert were, the performance still felt wonderfully intimate. The moon, the planets, the stars and the vast, celestial ether were all conjured up by Maestro Lucas Richman at the BSO at the Collins Center for the Arts, and yet rarely does the BSO have such a warm, personal feel.

In a program that was simultaneously familiar and challenging, Richman led the orchestra in the first half through a one-two-three punch of shorter, disparate pieces, beginning with the Haydn overture, “Il Mondo della Luna.” Jumping 235 years from 1777 to 2012, up next was Richman’s world premiere composition, “Through the Azure Ether,” written for Bob and Molly Nagle, the couple who bid on and won the chance for Richman to compose a piece, which they dedicated it to their late son Arthur.

It was lovely and deeply moving, with a haunting cello theme woven throughout the piece, at first quiet and meditative before moving into a lively, triumphant climax and ending with the same hushed stillness. To know the story behind a musical composition and then to hear it and have a connection to it on such a tangible level is a rare gift indeed.

Closing out the first half of the performance was a Maine premiere performance of a new piece by Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov, “Sidereus.” The piece was named for Galileo’s book “Sidereus Nuncius,” about his first time observing the moon through a telescope, and appropriately, it was a big, expressive number, with simple melodies evocative of galaxies and planets.

The second half of the concert was dedicated solely to one of the most beloved pieces in the classical repertoire: Holst’s “The Planets.” And what a nuanced, graceful performance Richman coaxed from his orchestra — from the crashing menace of “Mars” to the instantly recognizable “Jupiter,” ending on the gorgeous, hushed “Neptune.” It was a joy from start to finish, and judging from the larger-than-usual number of children in the crowd, the BSO has amassed some new fans. The performance brought the audience to its feet, and Richman and company rewarded them with a surprise encore of the “Star Wars” theme, which actually inspired whoops and hollers from the typically staid BSO crowd. After all, Richman is John Williams’ personal choice to conduct all performances of the music from “Star Wars” — making the experience even more special.

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