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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.