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Philharmonic features some of orchestra’s own

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The New Mexico Philharmonic’s Neighborhood concert series serves as an excellent vehicle for featuring the many outstanding musical talents right here in New Mexico. This season’s series opener featured master trumpeter John Marchiando in two Baroque concertos. It is always heartening to see one of the orchestra’s own players step into the spotlight and allow us to discover what superb players they are.

Byron Herrington, whom we normally see in the trombone section of the orchestra, was at the podium last Saturday at the First United Methodist Church.

The program opened with a work by the late Romantic composer Edvard Grieg, though based in the Baroque era. Grieg’s “From Holberg’s Time” was written as a commemoration of the great 18th-century Danish poet and playwright Ludwig Holberg, often called “Moliere of the North.” For his suite Grieg chose to use dance movements of that era for string orchestra.

An exhilarating pulse to the Praeludium began the work. The gently bittersweet Sarabande gave way to a stately Gavotte and a sensuous Air, one of the composer’s most beautiful creations. The final playful Rigaudon featured some excellent fiddle-inspired playing by the new Assistant Concertmaster Ruxandra Simionescu-Marquardt – a tribute to the folk players of Grieg’s native Norway.

Marchiando then took the stage for two short but virtuosic concertos by Georg Philipp Telemann and Tomaso Albinoni. Both works alternate four slow and fast movements. Telemann wrote more music than J.S. Bach and George Frederic Handel combined. So trying to single out this particular concerto is something of a task. Suffice it to say the work is in D major and a delightful discovery. The Albinoni “Concerto St. Mark” is actually a violin sonata (originally #11 from 12 Trattenimenti armonici, Op. 6), transcribed for trumpet and strings by the great trumpeter Maurice Andre.

In each work the glistening tones of Marchiando’s trumpet were highlighted against a rich blend of strings. The slow movements demonstrated beautifully-sustained legato lines, while the faster sections produced cascades of flowing ornamentation. This splendid display of trumpeting brought an appreciative standing ovation.

The Central United Methodist Chancel Choir and the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church joined forces in the second half along with two trumpets and tympani for Franz Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G Major. Herrington led a gentle and tuneful Kyrie, followed by a subdued Gloria. The Credo brought several dramatic outbursts at crucial junctures.

The solistic interventions are modest but effective. The three singers were impressive – high-sounding tenor Kent Wall, robust baritone Michael Hix, but most importantly soprano Zoi Chavez. She gave a radiance to the gorgeous melodies that open the Benedictus and the darker Agnus Dei sections with a sweet, clear, tightly focused voice.

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