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Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Violinist Polina Sedukh

UNFINISHED AND FINNISH

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 8, 2019

Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also joined the College faculty. Clearly it was time to hear how the USO would sound under different leadership.

The initial answer was problematical, as the two Sibelius Valses (Romantique, Op. 62b, and Triste, Op. 44, No. 1) received lackluster performances with spotty attacks and shaky string pitch. The tempos Mr. Lenberg selected were quite slow and even the ever-popular Triste lacked lift and charm. Yes Triste’s character is sad, but sad with flow and subtle momentum.

So it was a pleasant surprise to hear the conductor draw from his orchestra a convincing interpretation of Schubert’s 8th Symphony (“Unfinished”), a two-movement work from the early 1820s. Here attacks and releases were lucid and there was exemplary brass playing throughout, the horns augmented in this concert by three Sonoma County Philharmonic players. The opening section was properly mysterious and even ambiguous, and there was fine thematic playing from clarinetist Nick Xenelis and oboist Beth Aiken over murmuring strings. The big Fortissimo chords were gripping, the conductor controlling section balances and underscoring the work’s violence with just a touch of warmth in the famous second theme played pianissimo.

The E Major Andante second movement was equally effective, beginning with the theme from cello and bass sections, and lovely wind playing with Mr. Lenberg sculpting a chaste oboe ritard before a second theme that was first introduced by the violins. The USO played wonderfully softly at the end, capturing the spiritual calmness of music that at times had strange outbursts and keys far from E Major.

Following intermission came Sibelius’ D Minor Violin Concerto with soloist Polina Sedukh. Playing from score Ms. Sedukh’s focused and shimmering opening phrases were perfectly taken up by the Orchestra, and her bright violin sound, accurate pitch and fast trills had the character needed for this magisterial work from 1905. Her sound was more persuasive in the lower register, but her command of changing vibrato and double stops was artistic. Her sonic power in the long Cadenza was ample.

In the Adagio there are two places were short ascending violin phrases, each ending in a repeat, each repeat best played at less volume and perhaps with a tiny ending ritard, are key to a stellar performance. Ms. Sedukh played both beautifully, as she did with the movement’s final notes, piano and sans vibrato. Elegant playing.

Occasionally in the finale the Orchestra played too loudly, covering the violin line. The soloist caught the intensity of the composer’s writing that in the Orchestra featured resonant trombones and horns. The violin part is virtuosic, at several places dropping from a stratospheric F-Sharp to a low beginning phrase of 13 ascending thirds, marked staccato. Many famous soloists can’t make the fall off, either delaying or slurring the marked upward staccato notes. Ms. Sedukh managed these demanding phrases with aplomb and deft authority.

The Allegro’s last chords brought a standing ovation from the audience of 300, with two curtain calls.

Since Classical Sonoma last attended USO concerts, extra-musical details have all been upgraded – marketing, printed programs, lobby food, the ever-present raffle and gratis entry to the adjacent art gallery. All seems to bode well for a successful tenure for Mr. Lenberg with his seasoned Orchestra.

Daniel Greenhosue contributed to this review.