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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...
Chamber
SNAZZY CLARINET-PIANO WORKS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Often international-level instrumental duos are pickup couplings, one virtuoso’s schedule meeting another’s with the resulting desultory concerts. An exception would be the violinist Anne Sophie Mutter with her long-time partner Lambert Orkis, and the Nakamatsu-Manesse Duo. The latter played a pro...
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.