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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...
Symphony
A BANDONEONIST WALKS INTO A BAR ...
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 08, 2015
Seeing a bandoneón player in front of a symphony orchestra reminds one of the old joke about a kangaroo walking into a high-priced bar. The bartender says, "We don't get many kangaroos in here," to which the kangaroo replies, "With these prices, I can see why." Likewise, if a bandoneónist were to wa...
Chamber
INTENSE STRING PLAYING IN HEALDSBURG'S ALL-POLISH COMPOSER PROGRAM
by Nicki Bell
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
A surprise program change greeted a full house in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Room Feb. 4 when the Szymanowski Quartet from Warsaw played an all-Polish composer concert. Judging by audience comments at intermission the displacement of an arrangement of a Mussorgsky work by Penderecki’s Third Quartet w...
Chamber
KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 01, 2015
Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Supe...
Symphony
ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015
A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay. Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon...
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.