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Recital
MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache. Exploring the Festival’s Mozart t...
Symphony
MOZART'S GENIUS UPSTAGES DIVA, YOUTH AND CONDUCTOR IN STERLING MMF CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Mendocino’s eclectic Music Festival gave a strong imprimatur to the Mozart theme July 22 with a radiant orchestral and vocal concert in the big white tent on the Mendocino headlands. The Overture from “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (K. 384) opened the concert in an adroit reading that was...
Chamber
CLARINET MUSIC LAUNCHES NEW FESTIVAL IN SONOMA VALLEY
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. It’s unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built wh...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Recital
ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall. A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to thi...
Symphony
SPLASHY RUSSIAN MUSIC IN MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff. Conducted by Artistic ...
Recital
FRENCH ROMANTIC ORGAN MUSIC IN NUMINA RECITAL
by James Harrod
Friday, July 10, 2015
Etienne Walhain played a magical recital July 10 of organ music of Bach, Scarlatti and Franck. Displaying total command of the Church of the Incarnation’s Casavant instrument under his hands and feet, Mr. Walhain performed his program from memory with breath taking speed, accuracy, and clean articul...
Symphony
BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall. Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 ...
Recital
TWO EXEMPLARY ORGAN RECITALS HIGHLIGHT CHAMBERFEST
by James Harrod
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Baroque music aficionados and organists were glued to their seats at Chamberfest’s June 27 and 28 when Malcolm Matthews performed two amazingly perfect recitals of Baroque organ music from North Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. The two prodigious concerts included no less than 17 selections,...
Chamber
INTREPID VIRTUOSITY IN PAREMSKI'S BRAHMS VARIATIONS
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 26, 2015
Sonoma County organist James Harrod contributed the organ work analysis in this review. Pianist Natasha Paremski had the stellar role June 26 in the third Chamberfest program in Schroeder Hall, beginning with Beethoven’s A Flat Sonata, Op. 110. Classical Sonoma was unable to review the Sonat...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Alasdair Neale, conductor; Nathan Chan, cello

Cellist Nathan Chan

YOUTHFUL MUSIC AND VIRTUOSITY WELL SERVED IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by John Metz
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marin Symphony’s first concert of 2012 was on many levels a union of old and new. The symphony, as a musical genre, dates back to the 18th century, with the most notable examples being those of Mozart and Haydn. In the 19th Century its legacy was carried on by master symphonists Beethoven and Schubert, and later by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak. But what about today? Is the symphony still alive today? And if so, which composers are champions of the 21st Century symphony?

If you attended the Jan. 31 concert at the Marin Center you know that Lowell Liebermann is one such composer. Conductor Alasdair Neale and his orchestra gave the West Coast premiere of Liebermann’s Symphony No. 3, op. 113, a single-movement work of about 20 minutes duration. Typically, symphonies are multi-movement works, and although Liebermann’s departs from this norm, the work’s form is clearly divided into three distinct sections.

The Symphony’s opening presents, in succession, three principle motives (a compositional technique Liszt first used in his genre-defying single-movement Piano Sonata). These three motives – a rising melody accompanied by descending whole tones, a disjointed chromatic melody, and a modal three-part chorale – comprise the basic thematic material of the symphony. They are developed in myriad ways, for example, as a waltz, and in the middle section as a blues melody and an octatonic jazz stride, and in the final section as a reflective sarabande. As one may infer, this symphony offers a wide range of stylistic variety, yet never loses its sense of organic unity.

The jazzy allegro middle section comes as a respite amid a work of turbulence, drama, deep sadness, and lost hope. The Symphony is filled with unresolved climaxes. I lost count of how many times a long, harrowing crescendo reached climax only to bottom out into a lingering silence.

The final section, which further develops the chorale theme, is contemplative and emotionally inward, ending in an unresolved recollection of the allegro, played by the flutes and percussion. Mr. Neale appropriately describes the ending as, “a musical question mark.” Perhaps the lack of resolution in his third symphony means we listeners can expect more Liebermann symphonies in the future. I certainly hope so.

The concert opened with a young Liebermann symphony and closed with an old Dvorak Symphony, the No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, popularly known as the “From The New World.” Framing the concert in symphonies, new and old, enabled the audience not only to hear an old familiar favorite, but to reflect upon the history and evolution of the form – what has brought us from the Czech composer’s forty-five-minute Romantic masterpiece to Liebermann’s more compact expression of darkness, irony, and lost hope. Yet a similar thread, as Mr. Neale noted, does extend throughout these symphonies. That is, just as Liebermann’s symphony offers stylistic variety ranging from blues to waltz, Dvorak incorporates an eclectic mix of influences into his own musical fabric. These influences include Native American music, African American spirituals, and Czech folk tunes from his homeland.

The conductor and the Marin orchestra gave successful renditions of both symphonies, which were met with enthusiastic applause, especially the “New World”. The horns, led by principal Darby Hinshaw, played particularly well in the first and fourth movements of the Dvorak. I was impressed with the elegant performance of English horn player Laura Reynolds.

The highlight of the evening was a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85, by 17-year-old Nathan Chan as the soloist. Mr. Chan is a very extroverted performer, who doesn’t just play the music, but shows it – intentionally or not – through dramatic gestures and facial expressions. Though his technical command of the instrument is good, his inner musicality and expressivity is what makes him a stand out instrumentalist. His performance of the elegiac opening melody was sincere and heartfelt. The Allegro molto may have been restrained in tempo, but the cellist instilled enough jollity and whimsy in his performance to make up for any lack of speed. He made the heartfelt and poignant melodies of the third movement sing. Mr. Chan plays with a rich and vibrant tone, though he often loses that richness in the upper register, which tends to sound frail. The fourth movement is an exciting dance-like tour de force, which revisits themes from the third and first movement.

A young cellist playing an old favorite. A 21st Century symphony and a 19th Century symphony. This concert truly was a union of young and old.