Never underestimate local talent.
Concertgoers endorsed that maxim Sunday, when cellist Noreen Silver soloed in F. J. Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major with a scaled back Bangor Symphony Orchestra at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. Silver, the principal cellist with the orchestra, gave a passionate and stirring performance that brought the audience to its feet amid cries of “Bravo. Bravo.” Silver evoked nearly every possible sound a cello is capable of making in interpreting the concerto that mysteriously disappeared from the classical canon for two centuries.
To call Silver’s fine fingering and precise bowing a virtuoso performance does not do justice to her talent or her years spent perfecting her technique. Concertgoers’ response said all there was to say.
Conductor Lucas Richman this season increased the Masterworks series from five to six concerts. That allowed him and the musicians to focus on pieces written for chamber orchestras made up of an ensemble of 35 or so players rather than a full orchestra with the usual 60 musicians or more.
The idea was to present pieces that are rarely performed or date from the 18th century or earlier, Richman told the Bangor Daily News earlier this month. The Haydn cello concerto was written about 1760, but not long after that the manuscript disappeared. It was lost for 200 years and wasn’t played again until 1962.
The program opened with J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D major. It concluded with George Frideric Handel’s “Water Music,” Suite No. 1 in F major, which premiered in London in 1717 with musicians playing on royal barges in the River Thames.
The smaller orchestra, with a string section of eight first violins, six seconds violins, six violas, four cellos and two basses and five brass players with three in the reed section, would have been dwarfed by the huge stage at the the Collins Center’s concert hall, had movable soundboards not been set up behind it.
Richman, a consistently cheerful maestro, emphasized the joy and lightness in these pieces, which span the baroque and early classical eras. With so few musicians on stage, there is nowhere for musicians to hide if there are mistakes or miscues. If there were any, only the most discerning ears could have caught them.
The only flaw in Sunday’s concert was the placement of the harpsichord in front of Richman in the middle of the string section for Handel’s suite. Although a microphone on a stand appeared to be placed over it, it’s plucked notes often were drowned out by the orchestra. Placing it in front of the players would have allowed the audience not only to see how it is played but also better hear this rarely played instrument.
In his opening remarks Sunday, Richman said he expected a concert featuring solos by orchestra members would become part of future seasons for the BSO.
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s next Masterworks Concert featuring “Scheherazade” will be performed at 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Collins Center for the Arts.
BDN writer Emily Burnham contributed to this report.