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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
 Recent Reviews
CHORAL AND VOCAL
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Composer J. S. Bach
Santa Rosas’s Church of the Incarnation has always been a local center for organ music, and Dec. 4 was the 25th anniversary of the installation of its splendid Casavant instrument that has 1,886 metal and wood pipes. What better way to celebrate the many years of service to church and area music th...
OTHER
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Pianist Halida Dinova
Russian born and Cleveland-based pianist Halida Dinova has had many engagements with the J-B piano emporium in San Rafael, and she returned there Nov. 20 for an afternoon recital of mixed and shorter repertoire. Performing on the small stage and surrounded with 60 grands for sale or rent, Ms. Dinov...
SYMPHONY
SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH A TRIUMPH FOR SSU ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Conductor Alexander Kahn
It was a daunting prospect - a fledgling college orchestra tackling the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony. Even conductor Alexander Kahn for the Nov. 19 concert in Weill Hall said from the stage that “programming it was a leap of faith.” Not to worry. The 49-minute performance under Mr. Kahn’s artistic ...
CHORAL AND VOCAL
SONOMA BACH'S WORLD IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Organist Phebe Craig
Continuing the theme of “Bach’s World” and its very deep dive into the subject of how Bach came to be who he was, Sonoma Bach presented Nov. 19 a second concert of a variety of motets by the Leipzig Master, J. Christoph Bach, J. Michael Bach, old Johann Bach, and two of Sebastian’s Bach’s idols, Pac...
RECITAL
ASSERTIVE PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Pianist Ilya Yakushev
Russian based pianist Ilya Yakushev has had many North Coast engagements, playing recently in Mill Valley and Healdsburg, and Nov. 13 in the Redwood Arts Council’s Occidental 43rd season a recital originally postponed due to COVID restrictions. As is currently the custom and part of Mr. Yakushev’s ...
SYMPHONY
SPARKLING PONCHIELLI AND IMPOSING SCHUMAN AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Pianist Connor Roham
What’s a surefire opening work for a symphony concert? A Rossini overture? Bernstein’s Candide? Gershwin? The Sonoma County Philharmonic’s opener Nov. 12 hit a home run with the sprightly Dance of the Hours from Act Three of Ponchielli’s Opera La Gioconda. The 10-minute work featured harpist Chris...
CHAMBER
CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022
Viano String Quartet
Continuing a splendid series of downtown Friday evening concerts, Healdsburg’s 222 Art Gallery and Performance Venue presented the Viano String Quartet on Armistice Day in two widely contrasting works. Contrasts indeed, as Haydn’s G Major Quartet, Op.76, No. 1, fits the Viano like an old shoe, the ...
SYMPHONY
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STOMPS ALONG TO MARSALIS VIOLIN CONCERTO
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Composer Wynton Marsalis
The first unusual sight to greet patrons at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 6 concert was a bare-bones drum set at the front of the stage. The second was watching the musicians stomp their feet when a fundraising announcement mentioned that the Symphony League provides refreshments during rehearsals....
CHORAL AND VOCAL
TRAVELS WITH SEBASTIAN IN SONOMA BACH'S OPENER IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Henry Lebedinsky
First up in this season of Sonoma Bach’s Bach’s World series was an Oct. 29 concert in Schroeder that focused on Bach and three of his contemporaries: teacher and friend Georg Böhm, the French composer Nicolas Bernier and the Italian Francesco Bartolomeo Conti. For this “Travels with Sebas...
SYMPHONY
ORCHESTRAL SPLENDOR IN MARIN SYMPHONY'S SEASON OPENER
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Simone Porter Oct. 15 at the Marin SO (A. Wasserman Photo)
Jubilant fanfares uncorked and capped Marin Symphony’s October 15 concert, the first Masterworks program of conductor Alasdair Neale’s final season with the orchestra. The first fanfare, just three minutes long but sonorous and impactful, was Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, Part One, w...
Local Concerts  
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, December 4, 2022
Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor. Elizabeth Prior, viola; Christopher Pfund, tenor; Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Katherine Whyte, soprano; Michael Dean, bass. SSU Symphonic Chorus, Jenny Bent, director

Elizabeth Prior Playing Dec. 4 in Weill Hall (P. Salyer Photo)

JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 4, 2022

For the Dec. 4 Santa Rosa Symphony concert at the Green Music Center, the parking lot was full, and so was Weill Hall ... and so was the stage, including the choir loft at the back. The reason for all the fullness came down to the final ecstatic phrase of Beethoven’s Ninth, the star attraction of the concert: “Joy, lovely divine spark!”

Could Beethoven’s Ninth eventually displace Handel’s “Messiah” as the go-to piece for the holiday season? There’s a strong possibility that could happen, made all the stronger by the Santa Rosa Symphony’s performance on a dark and rainy afternoon, the second of three performances in the weekend set.

Beethoven’s D Minor Symphony began after a satisfying first half. Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong took a long pause at the beginning while waiting for audience members to settle in their seats. After enough silence, he plunged into the first movement, a marvel of orchestral interchange and coordination. The opening bars of the movement consist of sustained notes in the brass coupled with rising and crescendoing string lines. Mr. Lecce-Chong coordinated all this effortlessly with minimal motion. As seen from the back, his arms rarely extended beyond his sides.

All aspects of the performance were tightly controlled. The violins, the most visible section of the orchestra, seemed almost synchronized, with matched bowings and phrasings. The woodwinds also achieved the same cohesion. The control extended throughout the movement, reaching its apogee near the end, when the entire orchestra performed a beat-perfect decelerando followed by a thundering crescendo

The second movement is marked Molto vivace, so the conductor opened at a sprint and rarely let up. The contrast between the speed of the notes and their musical container gave the impression of a horse trying to break free of its reins and gallop off into the wilderness. Despite an exquisitely played opening melody, the third movement, an Adagio, was a disappointment. The tempo was too slow, and some of the horn solos were fuzzy. By the end, the proceedings were grinding to a halt.

The sun rose again with the electrifying opening of the final movement. The tension built as the “Ode to Joy” motive progressed from section to section, constantly changing its form and shape until the full version arrived in the cellos and trumpets.

At that point, bass Michael Dean appeared upon the scene to sing the opening line of “Ode to Joy,” the poem upon which the movement is based: “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne” (O friends not these tones!). Mr. Dean’s voice was sonorous, and his German excellent. The choir, directed by Jenny Bent, included more than 100 singers from Sonoma State, Santa Rosa Junior College and Montgomery High School. They soon joined Mr. Dean in a full-throated rendition of another verse from the poem. Together, they sounded like a single voice. Next up was a quartet performed by the four vocal soloists. As is often the case, the tenor was hard to hear, but soprano Katherine Whyte more than made up for his lack of volume.

With the first round of singing over, the instrumentalists embarked on their own musical interlude, sometimes called the Turkish March because of its exotic percussion. Under Mr. Lecce-Chong’s firm hand, the musicians offered some of their best playing of the afternoon, bringing an extra spark to Beethoven’s magnificent score.

The choir returned after the Turkish March, careening headlong into a sublime double fugue. The interplay between choir and orchestra showed off the acoustic virtues of Weill Hall, where the choir loft is in an ideal position for projecting choral sound. After the choir reached the last line—Joy, lovely divine spark!—the orchestra took off at Mach speed and ended with a glorious flourish.

The first half of the concert didn’t feature all the bells and whistles of the second, but it was satisfying nonetheless. First up was “Soul Force” by Jessie Montgomery, a contemporary composer whose works the Symphony has played in the past. “Soul Force” opens with a bassoon playing a catchy motif over a steady drumbeat. The motif travels to a French horn and then to two trumpets. The strings enter next to play further iterations of the motif.

The brevity of “Soul Force” (8 minutes) didn’t allow for full motivic development, but it did display Ms. Montgomery’s ability to write a memorable sequence of notes and cast them into an orchestral form. She is a composer to watch.

“Flos Campi” (Flower of the Field), by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is rarely performed because of its unusual instrumentation (orchestra, solo viola and wordless chamber choir). By an amazing coincidence, all those forces were available in or near the hall, so Mr. Lecce-Chong put them to good use.

The viola soloist was Elizabeth Prior, the Symphony’s principal violist. The chamber choir was a combination of chamber choirs from SSU and SRJC.

As pointed out in the program notes and elsewhere, the English translation of “Flos Campi” is misleading because it makes audiences believe that the piece, in Vaughan Williams’s words, is about “butterflies and daisies.” For that, Vaughan Williams has only himself to blame. If he had given the full Latin phrase (Ego flos campi) in the title, the translation (I am the rose of Sharon) would have been much better understood as a line from the Song of Songs in the Bible.

The work does indeed make more sense once you understand the references. It began quietly, with Ms. Prior playing deep notes on her resonant viola. Her tone is dense, with true heft, and she sounded best on the lower strings. The choir entered wordlessly behind her, and the orchestra sprang to life. The balance between all three—choir, viola, orchestra—was superb, with each group holding its own in the swaying melody.

The piece concluded with a fugue from the choir and a long crescendo to the end.

Events Calendar

CHAMBER
Music at Oakmont
Thursday, December 8, 2022
1:30 PM - Santa Rosa
Shannon Lee, violin; Melivia Raharjo, piano
Pärt: Fratres; Mozart: G Major Sonata K. 379; Tchaikovsky: Three pieces, Op. 42; Arseniy Gusev: Four Inventions for Solo Violin; Stravinsky: Divertimento from the Ballet "The Fairy's Kiss" (arr. by St...
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SYMPHONY
College of Marin
Saturday, December 10, 2022
3:00 PM - Kentfield
COM Symphony Orchestra. Jim Stopher, conductor
Offenbach: excerpts from the "Tales of Hofmann"; Dvorák: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 Free admission and parking. Proof of COVID vaccination required...
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OTHER
Sonoma State University Department of Music
Sunday, December 11, 2022
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Sonoma State University. Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Andy Collinsworth, conductor American River Colle
Coleridge Taylor: Christmas Overture; Tyler S. Grant: Sweet Dreams; Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; Danny Elfman: Nightmare Before Christmas ; Dukas: The S...
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OTHER
Sonoma State University Department of Music
Monday, December 12, 2022
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Sonoma State University Concert Band, Andy Collinsworth- conductor. Noma Winds, Kim Mieder, conducto
Noma Winds; Carol Brittin Chambers: Night Fury; David Bobrowitz: The Iron Pagoda; Kevin Day: Rocketship!; St. Saëns: Adagio From Symphony No. 3 (arr. Ken Morely); Wagner: Elsa'sProcession to the Cathe...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
Sonoma Bach
Saturday, December 17, 2022
8:00 PM - Rohnert Park
Bob Worth, conductor. Sonoma Bach Choir
Christmas with Bach. Bach: Second Cantata Cycle (perhaps 7)...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
College of Marin
Saturday, December 17, 2022
7:30 PM - Kentfield
Marin Oratorio, Paul Smith, conductor. Soloists: Sibel Demirmen, Christa Durand, Karen Clark, Micha
Vivaldi: Gloria; St. Saëns: Christmas Oratorio, Op. 12 $20 general, $15 senior. Reservations recommended...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
Sonoma Bach
Sunday, December 18, 2022
3:00 PM - Rohnert Park
Bob Worth, conductor. Sonoma Bach Choir
Christmas with Bach. Seven Bach Cantatas...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
College of Marin
Sunday, December 18, 2022
3:00 PM - Kentfield
Marin Oratorio. Paul Smith, conductor. Singers: Sibel Demirmen, Christa Durand, Karen Clark, Michae
Vivaldi: Gloria; St. Saëns: Christmas Oratorio, Op. 12 $20 adult; $15 seniors Reservations recommended...
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CHAMBER
Santa Rosa Junior College Chamber Concerts
Friday, January 20, 2023
7:30 PM - Santa Rosa
Black Oak Ensemble

Program TBA...
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CHAMBER
The 222
Friday, January 20, 2023
7:30 PM - Healdsburg
Beo Quartet
Program TBA Tickets are $35 to $75...
Details