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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 11, 2015
Allan Pollack, conductor. Livia Sohn, violin

Alan Pollack Cheers Livia Sohn July 11 (Nicholas Wilson Photo)

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 Director Allan Pollack, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2 was an exciting beginning, a three-movement work from the 1930s that takes raucous orchestration to its zenith. The composer is a master at this kind of music, melding into the rhythms snare drum and trombone solos with in the second movement a “palm court” saxophone part.

Mr. Pollack conducted without score and was able to easily move the music from a circus polka style of the familiar “Waltz 2” movement to a forceful quick ride march in the final “Dance 1.” Bravos from the audience ensued.

Even given the Orchestra’s dynamic playing and catchy themes, the work quickly fades from memory. Not so with the Prokofiev 7th Symphony, the composer’s last from 1952. It’s a curious work, similar to the 7th (and last) of Sibelius in its autumnal character. And there are two possible endings to the last movement, one with a mysterious fade to the bell song of the opening Moderato movement, and one with 22 additional bars of a gallop and pulsating conclusion. I’ve usually heard the former but Mr. Pollack chose the latter, and it worked well.

The noble first-movement theme in C-Sharp Minor was played majestically, the sonic balance good with shining brass contrasting with a lonely triangle part and lovely solos from clarinetist Eric Kritz. Before the lively Allegretto began a faint sound from a rock band from the nearby McCallum House Inn wedding party was heard in the tent, a casualty of how loud music can carry far at night across an ocean bluff. Some audience clapping followed this movement’s conclusion, an acknowledgment of the Thomas Nugent’s oboe playing and pungent trombone and trumpet lines.

The wistful slow Andante was deftly shaped by Mr. Pollack, the music moving through remote keys and graceful colors. Adding to this rich sonic fabric were soft harp arpeggios (Anna Maria Mendieta) and piquant triangle and xylophone playing. A fetching combination.

A lot is going on with the finale’s boisterous march, and the connection to banal parts of the preceding Jazz Suite was palpable. It’s a loud movement in places, the sound distinct through the tent’s direct (non reverb) acoustics. The conductor with his signature sweeping arm movements was able to carefully juxtapose the propulsive and often violent sections with the composer’s mellow nostalgia. It became a satisfying benediction.

Programming this Prokofiev Symphony was a brave choice for Mr. Pollack, and the results were for me the evening’s highlight.

Tchaikovsky ’s marvelous D Major violin concerto with soloist Livia Sohn completed the program. Although even more popular than the Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Brahms concertos, the Tchaikovsky has been seldom played on the North Coast, and the last time I recall it was a potent Marin Symphony performance in 2010 with Vadim Repin.

Thematic richness characterizes the Concerto from 1878, and Ms. Sohn made the most of the Allegro’s stately themes and the conductor’s choice of a slow tempo. The interpretation was not weighty and Ms. Sohn was content to emphasize lyricism, legato ascending scale passages and chaste ritards before delicately held top notes. In climaxes her sound was sporadically covered by the Orchestra, but the long cadenza was played with enough virtuosity, though limited in power, to bring most of the audience of 800 to its feet in an ovation. And it was just the first movement.

In the following Canzonetta Ms. Sohn’s control of pianissimo was assured during short duos with clarinet, oboe and flutists Mindy Rosenfelt and Kathleen Reynolds. The phrases were shaped with elegance and subtle charm.

Without pause the music drove into a lively Allegro vivicissimo, and Mr. Pollack drew from the Orchestra some of the concert’s best playing. The tempo here was brisk, but not so fast that coordination with the violinist was affected. Ms. Sohn’s light and fleet bow technique was well matched to this quintessential pyrotechnical finale, and surprisingly the low register violin sound was as persuasive as the famous splashy high notes.

Applause was long and loud, but no encore was offered.