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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 that wander are lost, as the Sonoma County Philharmonic proved in their Feb. 15 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center. L...
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...
Recital
MESMERIZING BACH AND CASALS IN MA'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.” But the concert was real...
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.