Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg of the New Century Chamber Orchestra
By Shelly Aucoin
The New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO) joins the 152nd Annual Worcester Music Festival on Wednesday, November 9th at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. The twenty year-old San Francisco based conductor-less string orchestra is composed of 19 members and led by critically acclaimed violin soloist Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg. “I cannot wait to play Mechanics Hall again. It’s one of the world’s great theatres,” she exclaims.
Sonnenberg, who joined NCCO as Music Director in 2008, has been praised for her great musical intelligence and daring style. Her appointment resulted from a guest appearance with the orchestra: “When we began to play together in rehearsal it was such a powerful experience for all of us. I just couldn’t shake it” she explains. Talking with Nadja gives the impression that the union is akin to a love affair though she laughingly compares it to an unplanned child.
In addition to splitting time between solo and chamber performances, Nadja started her own record label in 2005. NCCO released its first album, Together, in 2009 followed by Barber Strauss Mahler Live in 2010. Both albums were produced by Sonnenberg’s record label, NSS Music, which places special emphasis on live performances.
Watching Nadja play, one is struck by her intensity. Her face portrays the same incredible emotion that she wrings from her violin and the entire orchestra buzzes with raw energy.
She feels that the conductor-less system is preferable to the traditional arrangement because it is so intimate. “It’s more personal and in many ways more gratifying,” she explains. “Every member of the ensemble has the same amount of responsibility. There’s no safety net.”
Sonnenberg views the playlist as a “five course meal” that should be varied in flavor.
The November 9th performance will include Rossini’s Sonata in G Minor, which Nadja calls “youthful and high-octane,” Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Bolcom’s Romanza for Violin and String Orchestra which was commissioned specifically for NCCO, and Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat Major which Nadja describes as the “happiest piece of music ever written.” She says that it is appropriate for capturing the joy that is apparent any time the orchestra is together. Written for eight people, it is a challenging piece for eighteen.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra performance will take place at 8:00pm (pre-concert talk at 7:00) in Mechanics Hall, located at 321 Main Street in Worcester. Tickets are $46 & $43; students $20 advance/$15 at the door. Group rates are available for parties of twenty or more.
You can learn more about this amazing orchestra at www.NCCO.org. and order CDs via www.nssmusic.com. For more information about the Worcester Music Festival visit www.musicworcester.org. Festival runs October 14th – June 3rd.
Photo of Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg by Christian Steiner