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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 2½ 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, February 05, 2012
Evan Craves, conductor;
Elena Ulyanova, piano

CRAVES DISPATCHES FLASHY PIECES IN EXCITING APSC CONCERT AT WELLS

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sonoma County’s insouciant American Philharmonic opened the first of its three spring concerts Feb. 5 with the Corsair Overture of Berlioz, and the work characterized the entire afternoon in the Wells Fargo Center – loud, flashy, trenchant and exciting.

Music Director candidate Evan Craves, formerly the APSC’s concertmaster, conducted largely without score, rare today and especially given the works at hand. It was even rare in the past, though Von Bulow conducted Tristan, Meistersinger and all the Beethoven Symphonies without music, as well and then playing the cycle of Beethoven Piano Sonatas. But now a conductor’s score is usually needed, and Mr. Craves looked at one only during the short Mahler work which appeared second on the program. The Berlioz was given quick a ride of just over nine minutes, the strings playing presto phrases and finally finding their unison footing well into the piece. The full brass section sounded triumphant. Here, and in the program’s final work, Miranda Kincaid’s bassoon playing was exemplary.

A sea change in sound occurred with the following Adagietto movement from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. A signature piece for Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Corrick Brown in Wells, Mr. Craves’ languorous conception played off the beguiling notes from the harp with rich lower string playing, eliciting a broad vibrato and a shimmering sound. The hall was breathlessly quiet.

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 34, concluded the first half with pianist Elena Ulyanova as soloist. The artist has been heard locally before in recitals for Concerts Grand and Robert Hayden’s Oakmont Concerts, and her playing in the lush set of 24 variations was similar to that of past appearances – highly dramatic and underscoring top treble notes and clearly articulating scale passages. Percussive sforzandos abound in Ms. Ulyanova’s conceptions, grabbing a listener’s attention but ultimately sounding affected. The pianist has a lovely pianissimo touch but at times at the quietest levels left-hand notes failed to sound. Perhaps the adage that one can’t play a real pianissimo in a large hall applies. The venerable 18th Variation in D Major (andante cantabile) was surprisingly played simply and with sparse ritards at the two climaxes. Ensemble with Mr. Craves was good.

To the applause of 800 Ms. Ulyanova added an encore, Scarlatti’s Sonata in B, K. 377, with driving momentum and a dry detache touch.

Kurt Erickson’s Toccata for Orchestra opened the second half, Mr. Craves holding the segmented piece together with thematic sections being traded off between strings, brass and winds. The Philharmonic made the best of the minimalist riffs, off-beat accents and entrances. Debra Ortega played the prominent piccolo part and the composer came to the stage to acknowledge the ovation.

A riot of scintillating orchestral sound came with the complete music from Falla’s 1919 ballet El Sombrero de Tres Picos, closing the program with much of the best playing of the afternoon. Again shunning a score, remarkable as the piece has manifold short sections, Mr. Craves drew an intoxicating blend of sonority from the APSC. Outstanding soloists included soprano Jody Benecke in two Flamenco-tinged arias, Nicholas Xenelis' limpid clarinet artistry, tympanist Gabe Sakakeeny, hornist Eric Anderson and Suzanne Eraldi's English horn. The music is crammed with startling effects, ranging from hand claps and raucous castanets to long Andalusian lines in the brass, and the suite sounded shorter than the 24 minutes of playing time, due to the conductor’s diligent control of his resonant musicians.

There was subtlety in the sonic commotion, typical of the entire afternoon’s performance.