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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, April 01, 2012
John Kendall Bailey, conductor. Solenn Seguillon, violin

Violinist Solenn Segullion

SYMPHONIC CONNECTIONS EXPLORED IN APRIL 1 AMERICAN PHIL CONCERT

by Peter Jaret
Sunday, April 01, 2012

It's no easy task to open an orchestral concert with Brahms Symphony No. 1. The work begins as if in midstream, at an emotional pitch many symphonies take a movement or more to reach, and Brahms composed the introduction after the bulk of his symphony was written, which may explain why it sounds less like an introduction than an elaboration.

On April 1 at the Wells Fargo Center the American Philharmonic Sonoma County was in full command from the first bars of the urgently pulsing, emotionally-charged introduction which features a rising theme from the strings contrasted by a falling woodwind theme, set against the steady monotonic drumbeat of timpani. The exceptionally fine ensemble playing of the woodwind section was graced by oboist Chris Krive, who conveyed Brahms' lines with unusual sweetness. Violinist Linda Welter led a string section that has never sounded better, playing with great sensitivity and dynamic range.

At times during the first movement the timpani threatened to overpower the rest of the orchestra, particularly the relatively small string section. But the balance soon righted itself, and the orchestra captured the elaborate counterpoint, tricky polyrhythms, and quicksilver thematic changes of this monumental work with great authority. The horns, such an essential part of Brahms' orchestration, were strong and sonorous, both in their ensemble playing and in solo passages. The composer required the trombonists to sit out the first three movements. It was worth the wait when their clarion call sounded the Beethoven-inspired theme of the final movement.

Each of the orchestra's five concerts this season highlights a different conductor, all of them finalists for the position of music director to replace outgoing Gabriel Sakakeeny. For this fourth concert of the season John Kendall Bailey took the podium. At moments his conducting style looked distractingly like interpretative dance, responding to rather than leading the group. And there were passages during the Brahms when the complex crosscurrents of the piece became briefly muddled. But he also coaxed thrilling moments of beauty from the orchestra, especially during the third movement, with its joyous trio section featuring flute, oboe and bassoon. And while remarks by conductors are usually best kept to an absolute minimum, Bailey's prefatory descriptions of the pieces were helpful, especially to guide new listeners.

The second half opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams' resplendent The Lark Ascending, featuring violinist Solenn Seguillon in her second solo appearance with American Philharmonic. Sequillon held the audience rapt as she unfurled the lush, rising lines of the lark's theme with exquisite grace and power. Even in the highest register, her tone was warm and musical. There were moments when the audience seemed to be barely breathing, the hall was so quiet. The piece features intimate conversations between the solo violin and several instrumentalists, including French horn, oboe, bassoon, flute and clarinet. All of the players performed with sensitivity and agility.

The final work on the program, Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, neatly echoed what came before. Strauss' tone poem, which conveys the final hours of a man's life and the transfiguration of his soul, begins with a pulsing beat reminiscent of the opening of Brahms' first symphony. The lush rising melodic lines of the final section, depicting the transfiguration of his soul, call to mind Williams' ascending lark. The orchestra performed with deep feeling, dramatically contrasting the agitated and rhythmically complex passages that depict pain and fear with the tranquil sections conveying recollections of happier times. Death is signaled by a tam-tam, played with admirable restraint by percussionist Mary Gillespie-Greenberg, making the moment all the more moving.

The orchestra offered up its most impressive ensemble playing for the final moments of the piece, fully conveying the majestic sense of mystery that pervades Strauss' musical rendering of the progress of the soul.

After the poignantly hushed conclusion, there was a long moment of silence, followed by tumultuous and sustained applause.