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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Zuill Bailey, cello

Cellst Zuill Bailey May 1 At Marin Symphony Concert (AW Photo)

SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE

by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musically, as conductor Alasdair Neale pointed out in a brief introduction to the program, they had in common a mastery of orchestral colors and the ability to tell a story.

Strauss’s one-movement Serenade for Wind Instruments in E-flat Major opened the program. Scored for thirteen players, the standard double winds plus four horns and contrabassoon, it is in sonata form and has the feel of Strauss’s hero Mozart. It was composed when Strauss was only 17, and was his first major success as a composer. Chorale-like harmonies and lyrical solos by each instrument in turn had the ease and comfort of long intimacy. The piece conjured a verdant countryside and changing skies. Despite a brief juncture when the ensemble seemed to waver, it was a charming introduction to the youthful Strauss and set the stage for a tone poem from his maturity, Don Quixote (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, Op. 35), featuring cellist Zuill Bailey as the misguided Don who is sure that what he sees is real, when nearly always it is not.

Based on picturesque incidents in the Cervantes novel, Strauss’s 40-minute vivid soundscape makes full use of the symphony orchestra’s colors. Written the same year as tone poem The Hero’s Life and closely followed by Thus Spake Zarathustra, this is Strauss at his most powerful. Mr. Bailey is a nuanced performer and riveting to watch. His cello playing had gorgeous duets with concertmaster Jeremy Constant’s violin (the youthful spirit of Don Quixote) and with violist Jenny Douglass as Sancho Panza. Tubist Zachariah Spellman underscored Sancho Panza’s common sense and genuine warmth. Through the medium of his amber-hued cello, Mr. Bailey gave life to the Don. And within the orchestral soundscape, beautifully shaped by Mr. Neale, all the characters were clearly heard: the trotting of Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante; the herd of sheep that Quixote believes are an army; the windmills he is certain are evil giants.

The orchestra played well and there was palpable camaraderie among the players, conductor, and soloist. Each emotion so eloquently formed in Mr. Bailey’s cello lines were elegant, and near the end, when the music suggests the demise of the elderly knight, Mr. Bailey remained motionless until the conductor lowered his baton. The audience rose with an ovation, and the soloist, presented with a bouquet, graciously re-gifted it to Ms. Douglass, who beamed.

For the second half Mr. Neale and the orchestra turned to music by Stravinsky, prefacing a major work, Suite from the ballet The Firebird, with a small one, Scherzo a la Russe. This spritely, modern-sounding one-movement piece was first orchestrated for the Paul Whiteman Band, and re-orchestrated and premiered in 1947 by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by the composer. Based on Russian folk songs, the piece often sounds as though it belongs to Stravinsky’s early ballet, Petrouchka. Full of sharp, dotted rhythms and possessing a frenetic energy, it was performed by the MSO with great style. Its ending is a complete surprise, abrupt and unexpected. To emphasize this, Mr. Neale spun on the podium after the last note and the orchestra leapt to its feet. Delighted laughter from the audience mingled with applause.

With the Firebird Suite the MSO entered a magical world of fairy birds, princesses, and evil sorcerers. The full ballet debuted in 1919, and Stravinsky subsequently adapted the music to form three concert suites, of which this is the most frequently performed. Principal cellist Madeleine Tucker’s solo was among the notable threads in this beautifully textured tale. Its five movements include the enchanting dance of the Firebird, the dance of captive princesses (with lovely solos by flute and oboe). In the infernal dance of the villain, King Kashchei, the percussion section shone, and in its enthusiasm almost overwhelmed the rest of the orchestra. The gentle, swaying Berceuse revealed the extraordinary cohesion of the string players, the violin section’s ensemble a whisper beneath Carla Wilson’s gorgeous bassoon solo. The Finale brought back the Princesses’ theme and rose to an exciting climax. The audience responded with a standing ovation that lasted through the curtain calls as Mr. Neale acknowledged each of his soloists with great appreciation.