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 Recent Reviews
SYMPHONY
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
RECITAL
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
CHAMBER
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
CHAMBER
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
CHAMBER
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
CHAMBER
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
RECITAL
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
SYMPHONY
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
RECITAL
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
OPERA
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Local Concerts  
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, October 08, 2017
Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor. Joyce Yang, piano

Pianist Joyce Yang

CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final decision expected next March.

The conductor for the opening set was Francesco Lecce-Chong, a 30-year-old Colorado native who began his career as a pianist. Currently music director of the Eugene Symphony and associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, he appears poised for lift-off into the classical firmament.

Lecce-Chong strode onto the stage for the Sunday performance clad entirely in black, topped by jet-black hair without even a hint of gray. He immediately brought his youthful enthusiasm to bear on the opening number, “Garages of the Valley,” by Mason Bates, an homage to the low-tech spaces in Silicon Valley where the digital age began.

“Garages,” filled as it is with the insistent rhythms of number crunching machines, was a perfect vehicle for Lecce-Chong to display his exuberant yet compact style. He stood with feet firmly planted shoulder-length apart and conducted almost entirely with his upper body, moving his right hand forcefully, with equally forceful use of his head and left hand.

Lecce-Chong never strayed far from his initial pose, choosing to focus the orchestra on his steady beat and precise cues. The result was an exacting performance of a challenging score that thrives on intricacy. There was a lot of col legno from the strings and rapid passage work from the winds. The dynamic range, however, was quite limited, and the piece never achieved much forward motion. One kept waiting for a theme to arise out of the brilliantly orchestrated background. Perhaps the best verdict on “Garages” came from a woman behind me, who opined to her companion that “It had a lot of nice color.”

Forward motion and thematic development arrived in the next piece, Beethoven’s third piano concerto, brilliantly played by Joyce Yang. She brings a graceful fluidity to every aspect of her playing, and her entry after the long orchestral introduction was electrifying. Every note was crystal clear, with remarkable command of dynamics.

Lecce-Chong ably assisted Yang from the podium, keeping the orchestral volume way down to let her lines emerge in the near-perfect acoustics of Weill Hall. At times, she seemed more like a singer, turning each phrase into a vocal expression of innermost feelings. Her cadenza in the first movement was a virtual showcase of brilliant runs, perfectly sustained trills and bewitching turns of phrase.

The Largo second movement was truly largo, with vast distances between the beats. Sustaining momentum at that speed is quite difficult, but Yang did so with serenity, swaying slowly back and forth as if in a trance. Near the end, she leaned way in to play a pianissimo phrase and held that pose for a long moment before the orchestra moved on.

The last movement was a romp dominated by Yang and Lecce-Chong’s superb control of dynamics. The softest passages were often the most energetic, and the loud ones never get out of hand. At the end, it felt like one had heard this much-played concerto for the first time.

Lecce-Chong fared admirably in the Bates and the Beethoven, but the real test came in the second half with Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. The conductor resumed his basic stance--feet planted firmly apart, arms close to the vest--and summoned the powerful volley from the brass that opens the symphony. That was glorious, but the subsequent response began to drag and lacked sweep.

As the movement unfolded, Lecce-Chong’s shortcomings became apparent. His range of motion is limited, and his left-hand movements often replicate those of his right hand, placing more emphasis on the beat than on expression. Instead of using his left hand to control the volume, he used his upper body, leaning forward for soft passages and snapping back for louder ones, sometimes with whiplash motions of his head. He seemed to be confined to a box, moving from measure to measure rather than phrase to phrase.

Lecce-Chong’s problems were most evident in the slow second movement, but he solved many of them with a sprightly and energetic rendition of the third-movement scherzo, a dazzling combination of pizzicato and soaring woodwinds, capped by an outstanding piccolo. He set a furious pace for the Allegro con fuoco final movement, eliciting forceful playing from everyone on stage, with impressive fanfares from the trumpets. At the end, Lecce-Chong’s tremendous energy carried the show. The question is whether he can harness that energy into a more expansive conducting technique.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice]

Events Calendar

CHAMBER
Music at Oakmont
Thursday, October 19, 2017
1:30 PM - Santa Rosa
Calidore String Quartet. Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi,
Beethoven: E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 127; Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3...
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RECITAL
Mastercard Performance Series
Friday, October 20, 2017
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Peter Serkin, piano
Mozart: Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, and Sonata in B-flat major, K 570; Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988...
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SYMPHONY
Santa Rosa Junior College Orchestra
Saturday, October 21, 2017
7:30 PM - Santa Rosa
Jerome Fleg, Conductor. Ann Miller, violin
Verdi: Overture to the Opera Nabucco; Gounod: Funeral March of a Marionette; Bartok: Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra Concert will also include selections by Santa Rosa Junior College Symphoni...
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CHAMBER
Sonoma State University Department of Music
Sunday, October 22, 2017
2:00 PM - Rohnert Park
Trio Navarro. Marilyn Thompson, piano; Jill Rachuy Brindel, cello; Victor Romasevich, violin
Beethoven: Trio in E-Flat Major (No. 6), Op. 70, No. 2; Martinu: Bergerettes; Mozart: Tro un B-Flat Major, K. 502...
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CHAMBER
Napa Valley Music Associates
Sunday, October 22, 2017
2:00 PM - Napa
Paganini Trio. Joseph Gold, violin; Debbie Dare, viola; Jaume Torrent, guitar
Bach: Sonata in E Major; L. Von Call: Tro in E Flat; J. Torrent: Four Golden Pieces and Journey to a Magic World; Paganini: Centone di Sonate (arr. J. Gold) Wine and hors d'oeuvres provided Tickets ...
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CHORAL AND VOCAL
Cantiamo Sonoma
Sunday, October 22, 2017
2:00 PM - Santa Rosa
Cantiamo Sonoma. Carol Menke, Director. Roses Signature Concert Series
A cappella choral works by Victoria, Lassus, Kevin Siegfried, Eriks Esenwalds, Poulenc, Dan Forrest and Moses Hogan. No tickets required - Free will donation....
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CHAMBER
Brave New Music
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
7:30 PM - Healdsburg
Thalea String Quartet. Christopher Whitley and Kumiko Sakamoto, violin; Luis Bellorin, viola; Brady
Haydn: Quartet D Major, Op. 76, No. 5; Webern: Langsamer Satz; Garth Knox: Satellites III "Dimensions"; Mendelssohn: Quartet in F minor, Op. 80...
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CHAMBER
Mastercard Performance Series
Saturday, October 28, 2017
7:30 PM - Rohnert Park
Miró Quartet (Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cel
Dvorak: Selections from Cypresses, and Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81 (B. 155); Brahms: String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 51, No. 1...
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SYMPHONY
Marin Symphony
Sunday, October 29, 2017
3:30 PM - San Rafael
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Jennifer Koh, violin
Barber: Violin Concerto; Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36...
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RECITAL
Green Music Center
Sunday, October 29, 2017
3:00 PM - Rohnert Park
Alexi Kenney, violin; Renana Gutman, piano
Respighi: B Minor Sonata; Crumb: Nocturnes (Night Music III); Schubert: C Major Fantasy, D. 934; Salonen: Lachen Verlernt; Bach: E Major Partita (No. 3), BWV 1006 Tickets are $30...
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