The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








Featured cellist Sergey Antonov, who performs as the featured artist at Symphony NH’s next concert, “Forever Young.” Courtesy photo.

 See “Forever Young”

Where: Keefe Center for the Arts, 117 Elm St., Nashua
When: Saturday, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m.
Admission: Tickets range in price, $12 to $48, available at the door at the Symphony NH Box Office, 6 Church St., Nashua. Call 595-9156, visit, email

Stay ‘Forever Young’
Symphony NH celebrates youthful promise

By Kelly Sennott

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 35 when he died in 1791 of causes that still remain a mystery. Composer Robert Schumann was only 46 when, in 1856, he died in a mental institution, and Felix Mendelssohn, after suffering a series of strokes in 1847, was only 38.

Symphony NH’s next concert, “Forever Young,” celebrates the immense promise of youth with music by the great composers who left too early. Front and center at the event on Saturday, Jan. 25, though, is returning cellist Sergey Antonov, the Moscow native who sent audiences rushing to their feet after his concertos by Shostakovich and Dvorak in 2009 and 2011, respectively. He’ll play the cello concerto of Robert Schumann with Symphony NH on this night, a “really amazing piece,” Antonov said in a short phone interview.
“It’s the last piece Schumann wrote. It’s very romantic, unsettling. Most of his music is very emotional and dramatic,” Antonov said.
It’s draining, too, he said.
“Playing classical music can be hard, emotionally. The composers who were working on these pieces were putting into them very raw feelings. The only true way to really perform the piece is to try to get into those emotional states and those feelings. … Every time we play, we get into it as if we wrote it. … And it’s hard. It really wears you out.”
There’s a reason that Schumann’s work is so raw and emotional; they’re pieces that he had to get out, Symphony NH music director and conductor Jonathan McPhee said in a phone interview. 
“Robert Schumann really wanted to be a musician as a young man, and his father supported that desire, but he died when he was very young,” McPhee said. “His mother, though, wanted him to be a lawyer, and he hated that idea.”
What followed was a struggle of his trying to a lawyer while wanting to be a musician until finally music won, and he studied under Friederich Wieck. He worked extremely hard — so hard, in fact, that he injured his hand permanently, and was forced to abandon his concert career and focus on composition.
It’s no easy feat, determining a season’s or even an evening’s concert makeup. McPhee and Symphony NH Executive Director Eric Valliere have a wide variety of events planned for 2014, each of which is designed to give audiences a small taste of something different.
This upcoming concert started with Antonov.
“He’s fantastic. His playing is very exciting, very vibrant, and he has one of the biggest sounds I’ve ever heard from a cellist. He makes everything sing,” Valliere said. “The first time we had him here, the audience leapt to its feet. I still hear from people who say they loved that performance.”
Antonov is also a young artist. Born in Moscow in 1983, he was one of the youngest recipients in the history of the Tchaikovsky award, having won the Gold Medal at the world’s premier musical Olympiad, the Tchaikovsky Competition, in 2007, according to a release. He’s played all over the world and currently resides in Boston.
“Then you start to build around that, trying to find the musical pieces that will complement that centerpiece,” McPhee said. 
He and Valliere chose Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major.
“Mozart’s 39th stands apart in his creative line. … He was performing at the time when composers were moving from being salaried court musicians. … This was the first symphony he wrote without commissions. He had to write it. That’s the thing that grabbed me. This is the one he had to write,” McPhee said.
Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” on the other hand, was written at the very beginning of the artist’s musical career.
“He wrote it while he was just 17. He didn’t write the rest of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for another 10 years, but the style was the same. … He had an amazing career,” McPhee said.
McPhee is looking forward to Antonov’s return visit to Nashua.
“We’ve done a really good job of bringing in soloists who connect with the audience,” McPhee said. “It’s a hard thing to describe. ... Sergey has this ability, he’ll sit down at a cello and start to play, and if you’re in the audience, you’ll find yourself leaning forward. That’s not something you can teach. That’s just part of their makeup.
“It’s sort of like watching an actor onstage or in a movie. You’ll have a crowd of 10 people onscreen, but you have to look at that one person. You can’t figure out why. You just have to drop what you’re doing and pay attention.” 

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