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Friday, March 27, 2015
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 Recent Reviews
CHAMBER
"DR. DOROTHY" CHARMS CAS ORGAN RECITAL AUDIENCE
by James Harrod
Sunday, March 22, 2015
The silver clad dancing feet of organist Dorothy Young Riess brought excitement and inspiration to organ enthusiasts March 22 at Resurrection Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Church. Standing tall and straight, poised and beautiful, in sparkling silver and black attire, this 84-year old virtuoso musician, ...
SYMPHONY
RAVISHING RUSSIAN MUSIC AND SOLOIST BURNISH SRS CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 21, 2015
It’s rare in a symphony concert, even one with many surprises, that a soloist takes on two disparate concertos with mostly identical results. But it was exactly the outcome of pianist Olga Kern’s appearance March 21 with the Santa Rosa Symphony in Weill Hall. Surprises? The first came with her po...
CHAMBER
TCHAIKOVSKY'S BIG TRIO WAS FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Grief and love are the catalytic converters of great art. On March 14 an almost full house in the Occidental Performing Arts Center was treated to a passionate evening of grief and love in musical outpouring from a terrific (yes, hot) award-winning ensemble. The Lysander Trio’s (named for a charac...
RECITAL
PERAHIA'S INTENSITY SHINES IN WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 07, 2015
Murray Perahia has built a long pianistic career based on performances of discernment, classical structure and impeccable taste. His playing always exudes a refinement and lapidary attention to musical detail. And so it was in his March 7 Weill Hall debut recital before an audience of 900, with a c...
CHAMBER
WINDS BLOW SWEETLY IN WEST COUNTY
by Philip Beard
Sunday, March 01, 2015
March 1 was the perfect date for a rousing wind-groups concert at the Occidental Center for the Arts. Two local groups, the Coastal Winds Woodwind Quintet and the 5th Avenue Brass Quintet, did themselves proud before a near-sellout crowd. The performance was to benefit the host Center, currently r...
CHORAL AND VOCAL
A DEFINITIVE ST. MATTHEW AT ABS BELVEDERE CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, February 27, 2015
The American Bach Soloists performed Bach’s timeless St. Matthew Passion Feb. 27 to a sold-out audience at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere. In the account of Christ’s last hours as set forth by evangelist Matthew, the Passion stands supreme, beside the Mass in B Minor, as Bach’s finest creation. ...
SYMPHONY
HEALDSBURG PHILHARMONIA PLAYS THE RAVEN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Les Pfutzenreuter is a conductor that gets around, moving from his Ukiah base at Mendocino College and the Ukiah Symphony to festival and concert appearances with many orchestras. February 22 found him with the Healdsburg Philharmonia in that City’s Raven Theater with works of Copland and Tcha...
SYMPHONY
CHAMPAGNE ORGY OF SWISS ORCHESTRA'S SOUND IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Orchestras on tour usually perform hefty display works to showoff their virtuosity and power. And so it was with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) Feb. 14 in Weill Hall. Big works, weighty display. And in a surprise the compositions by Stravinsky and Ravel in the second half did the rare th...
SYMPHONY
LENGTH? HEAVENLY LENGTH AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
A Bruckner Symphony performance can be a demanding task for both the orchestra and audience, as each of the nine are long and musically wandering. But not all that wander are lost, as the Sonoma County Philharmonic proved in their Feb. 15 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center...
SYMPHONY
BOLD OPERATIC AND SYMPHONIC CONTRASTS IN SF SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Pianist Peter Serkin and San Francisco Symphony Laureate conductor Herbert Blomstedt pulled musical extremes together on Feb. 12 in Weill Hall Symphony concert where artistic experience was a defining factor. From the warmth and humor of Mozart’s F Major Piano Concerto, K. 459, to the turmoil, drama...
Local Concerts  
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, March 21, 2015
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Olga Kern, piano

SRS Hornist Meredith Brown

A TROIKA TO REMEMBER

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 21, 2015

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia was home to three extraordinary composers--Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Stravinsky--whose stars continue to shine. Rachmaninoff carried on the Romantic tradition, Stravinsky tried to annihilate it, and Prokofiev landed somewhere in the middle, clinging to traditional forms while injecting radically new content.

Their differences were well illustrated by the Santa Rosa Symphony in their March 22 concert in Weill Hall. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis chose youthful pieces by each one: the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1, written when he was 18, the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 1, penned at 20, and the Stravinsky "Firebird" suite, at an ancient 27. Pianist Olga Kern played both the concertos, and Symphony first chairs supplied pervasive solos in the Stravinsky.

Wearing a gorgeous one-strap purple gown, the svelte, blond-haired Kern exuded confidence from the opening notes of the Rachmaninoff, and she got better as the concert unfolded. She sits straight but not rigid, her head slightly bent over the keys, her concentration intense. Her arms move as gracefully as a ballerina's, and her fingers fly over the keyboard with flawless rapidity.

Kern didn't really stand out until the cadenza of the opening movement, where she hit low notes with pinpoint accuracy while playing intricate fast passages in the upper registers. She then made a beautiful transition to a slower tempo, changing the mood in a split second.

While the first two movements of the Rachmaninoff are fairly bland, the third--which he reworked at a later date--offers some musical challenges. These Kern met to a degree, but her dynamic range seemed limited, and her interpretations too straightforward. The movement calls for drama and expressivity, but Kern was mostly subdued, if technically perfect.

The Prokofiev, which began the second half, ratcheted the drama up by several notches. The memorable opening phrase, with its strong accent at the top of a melodic arch, calls for all-out playing from both orchestra and soloist. Here Kern got more in the mood, playing the many iterations of opening phrase with vigor and the subsequent passages with fierce intensity. While at times hampered by inadequate dynamic contrast, she drove into the final section relentlessly, engaging in an animated call and response with the orchestra. The run-up to the end was truly bravura, and the sustained ovation well deserved.

After the Prokofiev, the orchestra emerged from the shadows to perform the suite from Stravinsky's "Firebird" ballet, a staple of the modern repertoire. Beginning with a six-note figure in the low strings, the suite moves inexorably forward, each section reflecting the action of the ballet. Even without the dancers, one can imagine their motions.

In the "Firebird," with its spiky rhythms and incessant melodic handoffs, all the orchestral parts have to fit exactly for the music to work. The fit in this performance was precise, and hearing the hot-potato phrases skip from woodwinds to brass to strings was a sonic delight. Ferrandis held everyone together with a steady beat that was easy to read.

The "Firebird" unfolds by degrees. Most of the first half is relatively subdued, with frequent solos from first chairs, most memorably the French horn. Horn principal Meredith Brown played each of her solos impeccably, with wonderful tone. The enchanting interplay between soloists and full orchestra came to an abrupt end with a mighty blow to the bass drum. The transition was so effective that several people around me jumped in their seats.

The tempo in the latter part of the suite was often fervid, with Ferrandis leading the charge. The brass,led by principal trumpeter Doug Morton, were especially prominent. The sustained buildup led to a tremendous orchestral chord and an abrupt transition to quietude, marked by a wonderful bassoon solo from principal Carla Wilson. During a subsequent pianissimo tremolo from the strings, the audience sat in pin-drop silence. The final bars, marked by a restatement of the horn solo and principal theme, were nothing short of triumphant, culminating in a thrilling final chord.

The concert was the best of the Symphony's season to date, and their performance of the "Firebird" was exceptional. Another reason for the concert's success was the cogent choice of repertoire. The beginning of the 20th century was a splendid time for music in Russia, and the concert displayed the range and depth of that period. Now if only Ferrandis could assemble a concert with substantial works by three 21st century American composers. Future audiences might find them as innovative and inspiring as their Russian counterparts.

Ed. Note: this review is the first of two for the concert

Events Calendar

SYMPHONY
Mastercard Performance Series
Friday, March 27, 2015
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Gil Shaham, violin
Bach: complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin...
Details

CHAMBER
The Altos Brass Quintet
Saturday, March 28, 2015
7:30 PM - Healdsburg
Rick Leder, trumpet; David Adams, trumpet; Cathleen Torres, horn; John Monroe, trombone; John Taylor
Liberty Bell, John Philip Sousa: Liberty Bell; Ludwig Maurer Three Little Pieces; Morley Calvert: Suite from the Monteregian Hills; Lennon/McCartney: When I'm 64 (Arr. Jeff Holmes): Gould: Pavanne (...
Details

CHAMBER
Trio Navarro and Friends
Sunday, March 29, 2015
2:00 PM - Rohnert Park
Jill Rachuy Brindel, cello; Victor Romasevich, violin; Marilyn Thompson, piano. Philip Santos, viol
Shostakovich: Piano Quintet, in G minor Op. 57; Andriasov: String Quintet, Op. 1; Bernard Brindel: String Quartet No. 3...
Details

CHORAL AND VOCAL
Marin Baroque Chamber Choir
Sunday, March 29, 2015
8:00 PM - San Anselmo
Daniel Canosa, Director. The Whole Noyse (brass ensemble)
Birds of Paradise. Rameau: suite from Les Indes Galantes: Chant des Oiseaux: bird song by Clément Janequin; San Sabeya Gugurumbé, a mixture of Castilian, Catalan, Portuguese, and African vernacular by...
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CHAMBER
Mill Valley Chamber Music Society
Sunday, March 29, 2015
5:00 PM - Mill Valley
Pacific Guitar Ensemble - featuring accomplished guitarists David Tanenbaum, Peppino D’Agostino, Mar
Selections by Bach, Brahms, D’Agostino, Laurent, Piazzola, Rossini and Sor. ...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
St. Cecilia Choir and Cantiamo Sonoma
Friday, April 03, 2015
8:00 PM - Santa Rosa
Good Friday Concert: St. Cecilia Choir, Cantiamo Sonoma, and the Incarnation Orchestra. Carol Menke,
Cherubini Requiem in C minor Tickets available from choir members, or by calling 707-579-2604, ext. 104. A limited number of tickets may be available at the door....
Details

CHAMBER
Urioste-Brown Duo
Thursday, April 09, 2015
1:30 PM - Santa Rosa
Elena Urioste, violin; Michael Brown, piano
Schoenfield:: Four Souvenirs; Elgar: Sonata in E Minor, Op. 82; Britten: Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6; Copland: Two Pieces for Violin and Piano; Gershwin: Three Pieces for the Opera "Porgy and Be...
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CHAMBER
Redwood Arts Council
Saturday, April 11, 2015
7:30 PM - Occidental
Cotik-Lin Duo:
Tomas Cotik, violin. Tao Lin, piano
"Solely Schubert Part One" Join us for two days of historical musical insight and virtuosity with Schubert’s complete works for violin and piano. Please note that each day is considered a separate c...
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SYMPHONY
Concerto Kõln
Saturday, April 11, 2015
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Cordula Breur, flute; Anna Torge, mandolin; Margret Kõll, harp. Others TBA
Music of Telemann, Handel, Corelli, Vivaldi and Durant...
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SYMPHONY
Marin Symphony
Sunday, April 12, 2015
3:00 PM - San Rafael
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Marin Symphony Chorus, Stephen McKersie, director. Marin Symphony Youth
Bates; Mothership; Poulenc: Gloria; Strauss: Tone Poem "Don Juan"; Sibelius: Finlandia...
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