by Magdalena Dajka, ’20
A night at the symphony is a night steeped in the traditions of hundreds of years of Western culture. Thomas More College students are privileged to have a world-class symphony orchestra right here in Nashua: Symphony New Hampshire. The orchestra puts on monthly concerts at the Keefe Center for the Arts, a beautiful concert hall just a few miles away from the college, and many students and faculty take advantage of this opportunity to dress up and enjoy a night out at the symphony—several students have even begun routinely to serve as ushers for the concerts. Recent concerts have included music by Tchaikovsky and Brahms, as well as famous opera arias and Broadway songs. This month’s concert showcased music from the Baroque period, featuring works by Bach, Purcell, and Corelli.
This month’s concert highlighted the harpsichord, played by noted French harpsichordist Maryse Carlin. More common in Baroque music, the harpischord looks similar to a piano, though its strings are plucked rather than struck, yielding a softer, more delicate sound. For this concert, the orchestra consisted only of string instruments: violins, violas, cellos, a double bass. The musicians, arranged around the harpsichord, were standing—as was the custom in the Baroque period—rather than sitting, as modern ensembles usually do.
The concert opened with Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso No. 4 in D Major, a classic example of the Baroque concerto. In a concerto grosso, several soloists are accompanied by the rest of the orchestra, so in this Corelli piece, the lively, lilting melody passed from one soloist to the next with a seamless sound. Next came Johann Sebastian Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D Minor. While the harpsichord accompanied each of the pieces along with the orchestra, in this concerto, it was in the spotlight, playing a rollicking solo. After an intermission, the music resumed with Henry Purcell’s Abdelazer Suite, a set of pieces composed to accompany the play Abdelazer, or The Moor’s Revenge. The audience was captivated by a few familiar melodies, such as the theme which Benjamin Britten used in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Next came one of the highlights of the concert, Bach’s stately Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, an example of the highest flourishing of Baroque music. The concert ended with Francesco Geminiani’s adaptation of La Folia, a melody that many composers have written variations on, based on one of the most ancient themes of European music.
The students, alumni, and faculty who attended Symphony New Hampshire’s concert greatly enjoyed their evening of music, as they listened to the highly ordered, courtly music of the Baroque composers. In our frenetic modern world, where appreciation for classical music is arguably diminished, it is inspiring to hear the beauty and brilliance of such music, which can serve as a balm for the ear and a delight to the soul.