During its regular concert season, the Boise Philharmonic plays what might be called a warm-up concert on Friday nights at Northwest Nazarene University's Brandt Center in Nampa before their Saturday concert at the Morrison Center in Boise. Don't be fooled: Friday nights at NNU aren't mere dress rehearsals for the Philharmonic--they give these performances the full benefit of their talent and have rightly acquired a loyal following at their Nampa concerts.
The Boise Philharmonic is at the core of NNU's attempt to build a family-friendly fine-arts/events series geared toward the general public, and if the January 21 concert is any indication, they shoulder the burden exceptionally well. That night, the fifteen hundred-seat auditorium, though not overflowing, was far from empty. At the request of a disembodied Oz-like voice, there was a polite applause for the car dealership who sponsored the concert and then an enthusiastic round of the same for the appearance of the Philharmonic's conductor. Silence, and then the evening began in earnest.
The performance had all of the things expected from an evening of classical music--the obligatory concert hall coughing fit that starts with one desperate person in the audience and manages to spread its way to the stage; professional, accomplished musicians playing the music they love; respectful silences and hearty applause from the audience between pieces. And there were things one doesn't always expect as well--many students taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to experience a little culture, and at least one spectator dividing her attention between the music and her knitting.
The concert began with selections from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, a piece matched in its familiarity only by its charm. Beginning with "Morning" (the tune that's always played in old cartoons to herald the rising sun), the Philharmonic filled the auditorium with a full, sweet sound, lulling the audience in order to aurally assault us with the considerably louder "Peer Gynt's Homecoming," "Anitra's Dance" and other excerpts that created a nice, dynamic contrast. The final selection from Peer Gynt was, of course, "In the Hall of the Mountain King"--a piece that builds to a screaming, bombastic conclusion that must be as fun to play as it is to hear. There was an ever-so-slight anticlimax with the next piece, Dag Wirén's "Serenade for String Orchestra." (I knew things were going to calm down as soon as the wind and percussion sections departed the stage.) A serenade, according to a handy definition in the concert program, is a "light work of pleasing character," and Wirén's softer, less dynamic piece was exactly that.
After the intermission, the Philharmonic concluded the performance with Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43, a melodious piece that nicely split the loud/soft difference between Grieg and Wirén. The fourth and final movement in particular was full of lovely, romantic swells that served to put a satisfying resolution on the symphony and the evening itself. A standing ovation indicated full satisfaction from the audience.