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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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Monday, March 19, 2012
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Eroica Trio

Cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio of the Eroica Trio

AN EROICA PERFORMANCE FULL OF PASSION AND MOMENTUM

by Terry McNeill
Monday, March 19, 2012

Prospects for exciting Santa Rosa Symphony concert on March 19 were all good: three alluring soloists, two primo Beethoven works and John Adams' beguiling symphonic suite "The Chairman Dances." To a full house in the Wells Fargo Center, the program mix spelled success.

The effervescent suite from Adams’ opera "Nixon in China" (1985) was a shrewd opening. The fabric of sound favored the percussion and tympani sections, whose gongs and woodblocks were often used in spicy syncopation. The piano, played by Kymry Esainko, was a major part of the music and could be heard clearly over the orchestra's minimalistic chord patterns. Percussionists Allen Biggs, Susan Jette and Stan Muney were busy with the composer's manifold demands.

Adams' splendid concert piece mixes the weight and glitter of a big pop band with the finesse of a conventional orchestra, and the fusion works resplendently in ways that later Adams fusion works don't. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis' careful stick control was ideal for juxtaposing the wistful sections with the scintillating rhythmic repetitions and iterations.

Beethoven's C Major Concerto for Violin, Piano and Cello, Op. 56, closed the first half, with the Eroica Trio as soloists. The charm of these soloists was not lost on the audience. Clapping was heavy after the first movement, and there was an ovation after the concluding Rondo. Pianist Erika Nikrenz and violinist Susie Park certainly sounded proficient, but they had less than stellar projection. Ms. Nikrenz used a score, but Ms. Park and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio played without one, a telling detail as the Trio has given more than 100 public performances of the Triple Concerto. It’s in their blood.

The playing was fluent throughout and congruent with Mr. Ferrandis' conception and tempos. Instrumental handoff of themes and voice leading were flawless and secure. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio adopted a narrow vibrato but played the principal themes with a creamy legato and a sound that carried over her partners. Beethoven's never-ending innovation was on display in the third movement, the soloists passing the motives back and forth with increasing intensity. Although the performance had plasticity, it was on the whole underplayed, elegant but lacking the big sound that some virtuosos can bring to this sporadically programmed work.

The Trio gave an encore, Piazzola's "Oblivion," an enchanting work that is becoming standard repertoire. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio's vibrato widened considerably in the rich tango colors, pairing perfectly with the violin when the latter moved to the final bars with an exquisite upward portamento slide.

The second half consisted of one piece: Beethoven’s Op. 55 Third Symphony (Eroica). Mr. Ferrandis, with a reduced number of musicians, began briskly but not so abruptly as the iconic "two E-flat pistol shots" from the famous Toscanini recordings. The brass section occasionally overpowered the strings in the opening Allegro con brio, but in the Marcia Funebre Mr. Ferrandis coaxed lovely pianissimo playing from the entire orchestra--the best quiet playing of the evening, clear and sensuous. The unison horn solos in the Scherzo (Darby Hinshaw, Meredith Brown, Alex Camphouse, Susanne Chasalow and Henry Viets) were played with refinement and dead-on pitch. The exciting finale spotlighted the strings singing out the powerful theme, with the bass and cello sections deftly adding pizzicato parts. Principal flute Kathleen Reynolds played graceful and polished scale passages.

Mr. Ferrandis has vivid ideas about this seminal symphony, and he balanced vibrant orchestral played with his familiar section control and exuberance. Were the tempos in this genre-changing work too fast? Not for me as Mr. Ferrandis has a magic wand with such tempos. It was an Eroica performance full of passion, clarity and momentum.