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Chamber
FROTHY CHAMBER WORKS CONCLUDE VALLEY OF THE MOON FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 02, 2015
A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example. Artists at the Festiv...
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,...
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.