Noreen Silver, principal cellist for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, will play with the orchestra F.J. Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major at the BSO’s upcoming Jan. 22 concert in Orono — a piece that, as she says, leaves the musician very much exposed to the listener.
“It’s stylistically demanding. The articulation and phrasing you must have leaves you very exposed,” said Silver, who also is a long time cello instructor in both private lessons and at the University of Maine. “There’s no hiding in Haydn.”
For the first time in some years, the BSO, led by conductor Lucas Richman, will perform the Jan. 22 concert entirely as a chamber orchestra — an orchestra with a smaller, more stripped-down, more string-heavy ensemble of less than 50 people, playing pieces that are often rarely performed, or date from the 18th century or earlier.
The Haydn cello concerto in C major was written about 1760, but not long after that, the manuscript disappeared. It was lost for 200 years, and it wasn’t played again until 1962.
“The manuscript was discovered in a library in Prague. It’s like a gift from beyond,” said Silver. “There’s another concerto by Haydn that’s also very well known, but the C major is very wonderful. … It’s kind of a bridge between baroque and classical. It’s a very cheerful piece of music. Eighteenth century elegance and charm comes to mind. And it’s virtuosic as well.”
Silver was born in Glasgow, Scotland, studied at London’s Royal College of Music and the New England Conservatory and lived in Seattle and Israel, before settling in Maine with her husband, fellow UMaine professor and pianist Philip Silver, 18 years ago. Noreen and Philip Silver play in a cello piano duo, the Silver Duo, giving concerts all over the country, and Noreen Silver has been principal cellist with the BSO for the past 12 years.
At both UMaine and in her private lessons, Silver has been a mentor to musicians of all ages — her youngest cello students are in elementary or middle school, and her ones oldest are in their 70s.
Silver organized an event last month called the Winter Solstice Cello Fest at Minsky Recital Hall on the UMaine campus, and she invited cellists from all over the Bangor area — both her students and students from other instructors — to get together and play in duets, trios and quartets, eventually ending with all 25 cellists in attendance playing together.
“It was quite something. It was quite a sound,” said Silver. “That’s a lot of cellists.”
The Jan. 22 concert is not just unique for the number of musicians that’ll be onstage at the Collins Center — this concert also increases the number of concerts in the BSO’s Masterworks series to six, from five in previous years.
Richman said that increase was in large part because of audience research conducted by BSO staff, revealing that concert-goers and subscribers, more than anything, wanted more music throughout the year.
Adding a concert in the season also allowed Richman the chance to try something different.
“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to add another offering to our Masterworks series, in that this particular concert affords us the opportunity to program numerous works that, for various reasons, don’t fit in the scheme of programs with larger orchestral works,” said Richman.
Programming for a chamber orchestra opens up a whole new world of musical opportunities for Richman and for the players alike.
“To play the Haydn concerto with a chamber orchestra is a beautiful thing, especially for a cellist, because we’re always concerned about the projection of the instrument in a big hall,” said Silver. “But when you have a chamber orchestra behind you, that’s not as much of a worry.”
The BSO’s programming in recent years has leaned heavily towards 19th and 20th century works, but the Jan. 22 concert will allow the orchestra to reach back into the earliest part of the 18th century with Handel’s Water Music Suite No. F major, which was written in 1717 and was famously performed for King George I on barges set up in the river Thames.
“The repertoire available for chamber orchestra is quite extensive and runs the gamut of styles and historic periods,” he said. “Our upcoming program addresses two significant goals, the first being that we can bring Baroque music to the foreground with works by Bach and Handel, while the inclusion of the Haydn Cello Concerto allows us to begin presenting our own BSO musicians as soloists with the orchestra.”
Though it’s not Silver’s first time soloing with the BSO — she last performed Schumann’s Cello Concerto in with them in 2009 — Silver will also play with the BSO for the performance of Handel’s Water Music Suite No. 1 F major, though she will sit out for the performance of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3. Rarely does the soloist also sit in with the orchestra, but Silver wanted to in this instance. The BSO is her home orchestra, after all.
“I just wanted to. … You don’t often hear these pieces performed,” she said. “It’s a treat.”
The BSO’s “Masterworks III: Bach, Handel and Haydn” concert is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. Tickets can be purchased at bangorsymphony.org and by calling 800-622-TIXX. Tickets range from $19 to $49 including all fees, with student tickets available for $14. The UBS Pre-Concert Talk will be held at 2 p.m. and features Silver in conversation with Richman.