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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 Rossiniís frothy ďIl Signor BruschinoĒ was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare. Times change. Mozartís 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 Festivalís 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 yearís 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
Bachís 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 Mendocinoís Preston Hall. Perhaps due to the local performers...
Symphony
DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014
Napaís Festival Del Soleís 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 Bruchís 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. Sebastopolís 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 2Ĺ 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 Collegeís 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
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 Adamsí 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. Itís 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: Beethovenís 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.