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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...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, May 5, 2009
A Tribute to Aaron Copland
Alasdair Neale, conductor

Conductor Michael Morgan

LOUD AND BRASSY COPLAND IN MARIN

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Aaron Copland’s orchestral scores are so familiar as to seem old-shoe, even when his not-so-familiar Third Symphony dominates a program. Such was the case May 5 when the Marin Symphony performed an all-Copland concert in the Civic Auditorium in San Rafael.

The novel part of the program was at the podium, where seasoned East Bay conductor Michael Morgan substituted for the symphony’s ailing music director, Alasdair Neale. Nothing in the “Hoedown” from Rodeo or in the perennially satisfying suite from Appalachian Spring fazed Morgan, who led a thoroughly controlled performance characterized by moderate tempos and accomplished brass and wind sections.

“Hoedown” is a three-and-a-half minute romp that ends with a grand fanfare. It had all the pizzazz of a proper opening work. In contrast, the very slow beginning of Appalachian Spring exuded romanticism. Morgan’s beat was consistently clear and effective in balancing sections. Arthur Austin’s clarinet playing was elegant and frequently a gorgeous duo partner with other winds, the signature triad figure paced perfectly throughout. Trumpets (especially Cale Cumings) and trombones also thrived in the composer’s nostalgic harmonies and long-lined phrases, and percussionist Kevin Neuhoff was masterful.

At intermission, at least half of the large complement of musicians stayed on stage, madly rehearsing for the long Copland Symphony No. 3, which occupied the entire second half. The symphony, from 1946, demands a lot from musicians, and it is filled with echoes of Shostakovich and Mahler. Throughout the performance, Morgan evoked the expansive score’s dignity and heroism, but he never lost sight of delicate phrase endings in the string sections. He was in no hurry at any time, the tempos giving heft rather than edgy momentum.

Copland’s symphony is filled with loud, demanding music, as evidenced by the trumpets (played here by Principal Scott Macomber and James Rodseth), which lead contrapuntal lines and simply blaze away. In the final Molto deliberato some of the precision brass duos were not quite in sync, but perhaps stamina was at issue rather than any lack of musical commitment.

Special praise needs to go to Morgan and the violins for the lovely and seamless transition from the third to fourth movements. They proceeded deftly from often spare and ambiguous harmonies to the jazzy rhythms of the finale, a part crammed with more loud brass, wood-block syncopations and the familiar Fanfare for the Common Man theme. The orchestra moved through the two key changes and resounding percussion parts with aplomb.

The lengthy symphony didn’t seem long under Morgan’s deft direction, and the orchestra played with great energy, well deserving the standing ovation from a sonically overwhelmed but obviously thrilled audience.