A PERFECT 10 FOR THE TENTH
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 11, 2013
The Santa Rosa Symphony capped off its first year in the resplendent Green Music Center with an impassioned performance of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony, widely regarded as his masterpiece in the genre. Every section of the orchestra, from the lowest bass to the most stratospheric piccolo, played to...
PRAYERS AND REDEMPTION FROM THE APSC
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, May 04, 2013
For its final set of the 2012-13 season on May 4 and 5, the American Philharmonic of Sonoma County offered a program titled "Prayer and Redemption." The first half consisted of the prayers, the second of the joy of redemption. Guest conductor Cyrus Ginwala spoke about the pieces beforehand and then ...
FULL CIRCLE FOR KAHANE
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Since the conclusion of his decade-long tenure with the Santa Rosa Symphony in 2006, conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane has traveled widely, but he has often circled back to Sonoma County as a piano soloist. On Saturday evening, April 27, he upped the ante by not only bringing his prodigious keyboard...
TCHAIKOVSKY CONCERTO HIGHLIGHTS FT. BRAGG SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Ed Reinheart
Sunday, April 07, 2013
The Symphony of the Redwoods opened its spring concert April 6 in Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium with a memorable performance of Tchaikovsky’s B-Flat Minor Concerto.
Conductor Allan Pollack and the Symphony presented an ambitious program, opening with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Dance of the Buffoons" from t...
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2013
The title of the Santa Rosa Symphony's March 16 concert was "Sweeping Emotions," but no brooms were in evidence, nor did the Symphony play "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the canonic broom piece, thanks to Disney’s iconic film "Fantasia." Instead of brooms, they offered cellist Zuill Bailey, whose mop ...
THE MAJESTIC INEVITABLE
by Steve Osborn
Thursday, March 07, 2013
The Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 is famous for beginning with a piano solo rather than the usual orchestral introduction. To use a literary term, it begins "in media res"--in the middle of things.
My experience of the San Francisco Symphony concert at the Green Music Center on March 7 likewise be...
RUSSIAN ROMANTIC WORKS HIGHLIGHT APSC CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Luxurious orchestration has always been a hallmark of Russian symphonic music, as was evident in the works of Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich performed by the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) at the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Hall on Feb. 23.
Guest conductor Mark Wardlaw ...
PLAYING HEARTS: IT'S ZAJAC IN SPADES
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 09, 2013
At symphony concerts, soloists need to be both sonically and visually distinctive. For the latter requirement, what better way to sail above a sea of black-jacketed players than to don a jaunty white blazer with black lapels and a black bowtie? That was the approach soloist Roy Zajac took in a memor...
LALO AND ELGAR WORKS HEARD IN SFS CONCERT IN WEILL
by Kenn Gartner
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Brilliant! That is the only word to convey the musicality, sound, and the panache the San Francisco Symphony achieved Jan. 31 in Weill Hall with of guest conductor Charles Dutoit. The sound extant during this balanced program was spectacular, and I have rarely heard such substantial fortes, ones w...
FULL MOON, FULL HOUSE
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Under a full moon on Saturday, Jan. 26, before playing what he confidently predicted would be the first encore of the evening, cellist Yo Yo Ma paused to tell the overflow crowd at Weill Hall that they had “an unbelievable music room.” His choice of words is apt, because the magnificent space at the...
Harpsichordist Robin Sutherland
BACH AND PART PAIR PERFECTLY IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by John Metz
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
High Baroque composer J. S. Bach and minimalist Estonian composer Arvo Pärt aren’t such an unlikely pair, and the Marin Symphony played to this connection in their most recent program at the Marin Center.
The evening started with the first of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti. Like in the other Brandenburgs, the full orchestra performs in interplay with the featured concertino group. The concertante in the first Brandenburg consists of two horns, three oboes, a bassoon, and violin, though the horns are perhaps featured the most. And this is quite the showpiece for them. Horns in Bach’s time were valveless, which limited their range, especially in the lower register. Thus, these parts are written in a rather high tessitura. Playing in this range for the full duration of the concerto can be exhausting for players of the modern horn. And yes, this evening’s horn players certainly faced their challenges, but in the end gave a worthy performance – especially in the minuet finale, which also contained some lovely playing from the oboes and bassoons.
Juxtaposed between the first and third Brandenburg Concerti was Arvo Pärt’s famous Frates, arranged by the composer himself for solo violin, string orchestra, and percussion. Concertmaster Jeremy Constant was the evening’s soloist, and his solo introduction was raw, bold, and unhindered, even if not technically perfect. This lead to the main body of the work, which is more meditative, consisting of a singular sustained bass note, supporting the orchestra’s colorful chord sequences and the solo violin’s more freely written embellishments, often containing an abundance of harmonics. Between the various chord sequences, the high strings go silent, the percussion briefly plays, and the violinist strums a chord. This happens eight or nine times until the final chord sequence, which brings the work to a quiet and soothing close.
The third Brandenburg Concerto eschews the concertante group entirely, and instead features a small string chamber orchestra in which the violins, violas, and cellos are divided each into three parts. Thus each performer carries his or her own line. And with the addition of the continuo part, this amounts to ten separate melodic lines at once. This performance of this work was one of the highlights of the evening. The strings along with harpsichordist Robin Sutherland gave a splendid performance of this exciting piece. It was a great closing to the first half.
The concert’s second half began with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, again featuring Mr. Constant as well as flautists Monica Daniel-Barker and Katrina Walker. This work is in three movements, the first is marked by a memorable melody in the flutes, in addition to some impressive fingerwork for Constant on violin. The second movement contained some refined and expressive flute playing from Ms. Daniel-Barker and Ms. Walker. And of course the finale: a clever fugue whose style is somewhere between a fugue proper and a concerto grosso.
Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten is pure grief in the form of sound. It begins with a high, multilayered line that gradually descends to evoke weeping. As it progresses, the lines grow in intensity to evoke the fullness of Pärt’s anguish after Britten’s death. Throughout this intensification, the death bell tolls over and over again, never letting the listener move on, reminding us again and again of the void that will never again be filled. I enjoyed this performance but was confused by Alasdair Neale’s conducting, which lacked subtlety and seemed inappropriate to the music being performed.
The concert closed with Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto, perhaps the most concerto-like (in the modern sense) of the entire set. Here the soloists were again Mr. Constant, Ms. Daniel-Barker on flute, and Mr. Sutherland. The first movement contains some virtuosic moments from all three soloists, the most striking of all being the extended keyboard cadenza, which bursts forth, seemingly out of nowhere, and derails the entire ensemble in the most exciting and heroic way. Mr. Sutherland, who had filled the supportive role of continuo for much of the evening, now proved himself a soloist of the highest caliber. The string orchestra drops out for the second movement as the three members of the concertante perform a trio sonata. The third movement starts with the concertante alone, slowly evolves to incorporate the strings, and finally erupts into some of the most brilliant counterpoint of all Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti.
It was an impressive ending to the Marin Symphony’s best concert so far this season.
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