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Community philharmonic premiers original composition

New England Philharmonic
Featuring Jean Rife.
Kresge Auditorium
Oct. 22.

By Anne Wall

Last Friday night the New England Philharmonic, a community orchestra based in Cambridge, performed at Kresge Auditorium. The program featured horn player Jean Rife, who teaches horn and chamber music at MIT, and premiered a work by Charles Bestor.

The orchestra, founded in 1976, performs mainly in Cambridge and Metrowest locations. In its efforts to create exciting, unusual programs and promote new music, the orchestra programs local and world premieres at every concert. They are unusual among community orchestras in that they have a composer in residence and premiere one of the composer's works each year. Composers generally have great difficulty finding groups to perform their compositions. The NEP last year received over 300 submissions of new works for performance, from which they chose two.

Friday's program demonstrated why the NEP has received the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Award for Adventuresome Programming three times. The program began with the world premiere of Charles Bestor's "In Memoriam Bill Evans," a tribute to the late great jazz pianist. The piece seemed to suffer from a rather careful, pedantic performance that lacked good ensemble and the articulation that goes with it. Nonetheless, it was filled with interesting tonalities and instrumentation. Bestor was present at the concert, no doubt pleased to have had the opportunity to have heard his piece performed.

Next Jean Rife performed Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto No.1, Opus 11. While the cello section had some difficulty with intonation and the winds had a bit of trouble holding their own in the concerto, Rife remained composed and in control. Her phrase openings reflected the boldness of the instrument and composer, but overall the performance needed a higher testosterone level. The robust energy one would expect with Strauss was for the most part not evident.

The program ended with a convincing rendition of Honegger's Symphony No. 3 Liturgique. Despite the odd intonation problem or squawk from the oboe, the performance was still quite interesting and musical. Each of the three movements takes its name from a part of the Roman Catholic mass. The symphony is programmatic in that it tries to tell the story of the human condition, from Dies Irae to Donna Nobis Pacem. The last movement ended with a particularity beautiful series of introspective solo passages. A "halo of strings" set the peaceful tone.

Music Director Jeffrey Rink has done a commendable job in getting a community orchestra to perform to a respectable level. The orchestra lacks a close-knit sense of ensemble, but does quite well considering most of its members are not professional musicians and rehearse only once a week. The NEP provides an invaluable service to composers in programming new music. The orchestra meets its goal of being accessible to the community, both in terms of performance locations and price and should be commended for doing a fine job in what it set out to do.