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Opera
A PROVOCATIVE DON GIOVANNI AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 18, 2014
At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare. Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confus...
Recital
UNHURRIED COMMAND IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Pianist Robert Schwartz opened Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 17 with a set of works in a recital made for keyboard connoisseurs. His success was doubly gratifying for the artist as he had played on the same stage at last year’s Festival, but had to cancel most of the recital due to il...
Symphony
A MUSIC OFFERING IN A SONIC MIXTURE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Bach’s iconic D Minor Clavier Concerto was the centerpiece in the fourth day of Mendocino Music Festival events July 16 in the big tent concert hall, with San Francisco-based Stephen Prutsman the featured artist. Conducting a chamber orchestra of ten from a lidless piano, Mr. Prutsman took fast te...
Choral and Vocal
A CAPAPELLA FEVER AHH
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Choral singing, especially unaccompanied by piano or orchestra, seldom gets exposure at a summer music festival. So it was a surprise July 16 to find the Mendocino Music Festival featuring a full program of a capella singing in downtown Mendocino’s Preston Hall. Perhaps due to the local performers...
Symphony
DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014
Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire. Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Mino...
Chamber
SUMMER SCHUBERT SUNSHINE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 27, 2014
Though not as well known as the formidable Trio Navarro, the Amaryllis Trio has had an increasing chamber music presence since 2012 with manifold Sonoma and Marin County concerts. Sebastopol’s St. Stephen's Church and the Numina Center for the Arts hosted them June 27 in a sparkling concert of four ...
Chamber
A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME BRASS CONCERT
by Philip Beard
Thursday, June 12, 2014
"I think I just died and went to heaven" is a stock phrase for times of unusual bliss. On June 12 at SSU's Green Music Center, I didn't in fact die, but the 2˝ hours spent listening to the National Brass Ensemble came as close to a brass player's heaven as I can imagine. The hall was all but sold o...
Opera
HILARIOUS "MARRIAGE OF FIGARO" AT CINNABAR
by Nicki Bell
Friday, May 30, 2014
The Cinnabar Theater mounted a delightful, madcap, rambunctious, completely charming, extremely funny, very classy production of Mozartʼs opera "The Marriage of Figaro" from May 30 to June 15. With the feel of a 1920s Upstairs/Downstairs farce, it was sung in English and easily understood. Tho...
Symphony
BENEFIT FOR CHILDREN, BOON FOR MUSIC LOVERS
by Steve Osborn
Thursday, May 22, 2014
For its postseason concert on May 22, the Santa Rosa Symphony--together with piano soloist Jeffrey Kahane and conductor Bruno Ferrandis--played for free. The money they would otherwise have earned will be used to benefit more than 20,000 children served by the Symphony's extensive outreach efforts, ...
Symphony
POWERFUL SHOSTAKOVICH WORKS CLOSE USO'S SEASON
by Earl Dixon
Sunday, May 18, 2014
The Ukiah Symphony Orchestra concluded its current season on the May 17 weekend with a focus on Shostakovich. The featured works in Mendocino College’s Center Theater were the second Piano Concerto in F major, Op. 102 and Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. Pianist Aaron Ames played the concerto an...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, November 20, 2011
Barnabay Palmer, conductor

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu

APSC WOOS WELLS CENTER AUDIENCE WITH AN AUTUMN ROMANCE

by Peter Jaret
Sunday, November 20, 2011

One measure of the maturity of an orchestra is the ability to shape its sound to the personal musical vision of a guest conductor. So far this season, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County is proving that it has come of age, playing with great sensitivity and musicality under the direction of guest conductors, each being considered for the position of permanent music director. The orchestra's first concert was led by Sonoma County native Tristan Arnold, in a technically-assured performance that got the season off to a strong start.

On Nov. 21 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Barnaby Palmer took to the podium to lead an ambitious program that included Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Op. 84, Elgar's Serenade for String Orchestra, Mahler's Songs of the Wayfarer and the second Brahms Symphony.

Mr. Palmer is best known for directing the San Francisco Lyric Opera Orchestra, so it's no surprise that he did an exceptional job of shaping discrete musical phrases, coaxing a rich and emotional sound from the orchestra. Beethoven's overture, which opened the program, got off to a shaky start, but the piece quickly became focused and energetic. Many of its passages were conveyed with great authority, even if the whole didn't quite add up to more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand Elgar's exquisite string serenade in E Minor, Op. 20, felt strong and coherent throughout, each of its shimmering and shifting sections seeming to lead naturally to the next. The sound was rich and sonorous, even in the dry acoustics of the Wells Fargo Center.

The first half of the concert ended with perhaps the most difficult piece on the program, Mahler's haunting Songs of the Wayfarer, featuring baritone Eugene Brancoveanu. The work is especially demanding of the orchestra as it accompanies the soloist in passages that are almost impressionistic, requiring great sensitivity to the piece's shifting tempos and moods. The music is among some of Mahler's most beautiful, and the orchestra conveyed that beauty with impressive ensemble playing. Mr. Brancoveanu is a handsome and powerful baritone who held the audience in thrall, even if his voice isn't perfectly suited to the piece's sinuous and lyrical passages. Songs of the Wayfarer requires a baritone with exceptional range, especially in the devilishly difficult higher passages, and Mr. Brancoveanu's tone was occasionally strained.

The concert ended with Brahms' D Major Symphony No. 2, Op. 73. The conductor and the APSC offered up a strong and nuanced performance of the well-known work. As with Beethoven's overture, the individual parts of the symphony, especially the second movement, were played with impressive suppleness and sensitivity, even if the larger arc of the monumental piece remained somewhat elusive under Mr. Palmer's baton. Still, playing for the first time under his direction, the orchestra did a fine job of conveying the conductor's lovely sense of musical phrasing. Perhaps that is not surprising, as many of the musicians have played with the orchestra throughout its 11-year history. Although the APSC is an all volunteer ensemble, its members count among their ranks many seasoned players.

Three more guest conductors will take the podium in upcoming months, and it will be interesting to hear how the orchestra adapts its sound and approach to their individual musical visions. Whoever is finally chosen as the next music director, he will take command of a group that now ranks among the best regional orchestras in northern California.