We give a lot of ink in these pages to bar bands, comedy shows and plays, but the city hosts plenty of classical music, too. On that note (get it, note?), we’re here to get you ready for a big show coming to Concord City Auditorium next week, March 10, to be exact.
Symphony New Hampshire will perform Mozart 40 and Elgar Cello Concerto with Grammy-nominated cellist Marza Merophi Wilks and guest conductor Stefano Sarzani next Sunday, March 10, at the Audi. With the passing of legendary African-American composer George Walker, Symphony NH has chosen to include his Lyric for Strings on the program to honor his influence on American music. This concert comes on the heels of two nearly sold-out performances from Symphony NH. Apart from the Concord show, the orchestra is also performing the show the day before, March 9, in Nashua.
While any Symphony NH show should be considered a big deal, this one will be an especially big deal due to the high-end talent that will be featured.
Wilks is a widely respected cellist who has played on an album that was nominated for a Grammy. Born in Peru, Wilks graduated from the prestigious Juilliard conservatory in New York and has appeared as soloist with the Genesee Symphony, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of the Southern Fingerlakes.
Symphony NH actually had to scramble a little to book Wilks. The plan was to have Brant Taylor as the soloist, but a performance-related injury forced Taylor to take a break. That meant the symphony needed to find a replacement, and quickly.
“We called her about a month ago,” said Ryanne Flynn, marketing and audience engagement manager at Symphony NH, referring to Wilks. “We’re excited to have her come on.”
Finding a replacement for a soloist isn’t always easy. For one, the music they’re playing is very difficult. Also, given the nature of this incident – needing to find a replacement in about a month’s time – there would not be much time for a performer to learn a piece from scratch, so the symphony needed to find someone they knew could play Elgar Cello Concerto.
Luckily, Wilks can play the piece beautifully, and she was available for this show.
Sarzani, the guest conductor, is also very highly respected in the music world. His career entails leading orchestras and operas across the United States and Europe – no big deal. Sarzani is a recipient of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award in 2016 and has collaborated with symphonic and operatic institutions such as Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo, Atlanta Opera and Sarasota Opera.
Despite his long and impressive resume, Sarzani may be under a little stress during the performance.
Symphony NH is currently in the process of looking for a new music director. Auditions have been running for months, with a different guest conductor sitting in for each show, using that show as his or her audition. Sarzani is one of the finalists for the position, and in fact he will be the second-to-last finalist to try out. The final guest conductor will be Yuga Cohler, who will conduct a performance in Nashua on April 6.
After this performance, the symphony folks will have their work cut out for them. The group of finalists for the music director position numbers nine, and Flynn said every one of them so far has been excellent, and that’s before even seeing Sarzani work.
“All the finalists have been great,” Flynn said. “Every time, we think we’ve found the one.”
Ultimately, a decision will be made around spring and announced in May. While it will be a tough decision for those involved in that process, Flynn admitted that having nine great candidates for one position is a good problem to have.
After the show, the audience will be surveyed on the conductor’s performance. While these audience polls won’t be the deciding factor – the decision is ultimately up to the executive director, as well as a committee of trustees and musicians – they will be looked at and taken into consideration, Flynn said. While this won’t be an American Idol-type of experience, in which the audience makes all the decisions, its’ still kind of fun to know that you can have a small impact on the outcome.
As for the specifics about the March 10 show, it will be performed at the Audi at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 to $52 with senior and student discounts available. Unlike many shows at the Audi, this one will have assigned seating, which is why there’s a fairly wide price range. Youth under the age of 16 are welcome to attend for free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Tickets can be purchased online at symphonynh.org, by calling 595-9156 or by visiting the Symphony NH office at 6 Church St., Nashua.
The program will begin with Weber’s Overture to Euryanthe, one of Weber’s most beloved operas. Next will be Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which has been performed by greats such as Yo-Yo Ma. Walker will be honored with Lyric of Strings, and the finale will be Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, one of Mozart’s most iconic and popular pieces.