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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
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...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, May 16, 2009
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Cecile Licad, piano

Cecile Licad

TURANGA-LITE IN SANTA ROSA

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Olivier Messiaen’s 10-movement Turangalîla-Symphonie is rarely performed because of its length (about an hour and a quarter) and its unusual instrumentation (the score calls for ondes martenot, vibraphone, and glockenspiel, among many other instruments). The double whammy makes performances of this 20th-century masterpiece hard to find — and fund.

For the second half of its May 16 concert, the Santa Rosa Symphony tried to solve the Turangalîla problem by performing only three movements without skimping on the instrumentation. In place of the other seven movements, they offered UCLA musicologist Robert Winter, who tried to explain what Turangalîla was all about to the presumably bewildered suburban audience.

Although Winter’s comments were occasionally insightful, they couldn’t atone for the basic fact that every minute of Winter was one less minute of Messiaen. At about 20 minutes, his introduction lasted nearly as long as the three-movement Turangalîla excerpt (pegged at 22 minutes in the program notes). With all due respect, Winter should have introduced the piece during an optional preconcert talk so the orchestra could have performed the entire work during the concert proper. Who cares about time (or words) when you’re listening to music as transcendent as Messiaen’s?

One reason for the Turanga-lite offering was the concert’s format, which hewed to the traditional short work and concerto in the first half, followed by a symphony in the second. In this case, the short work was Wagner’s “Nachtgesang” from Tristan und Isolde (another excerpt), and the concerto was Ravel’s G major for piano, performed splendidly by Cecile Licad.

Both these works were wonderful in themselves, but they became even more significant during the subsequent Turangalîla excerpt: the Wagner because it recounts the same love story as the Messiaen; the Ravel because it employs many of the same compositional techniques.

Under the watchful baton of Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, the cellos began the “Nachtgesang” sotto voce, barely rising above a whisper. The pace was luxuriously slow, and the stress of a long, hot day in Sonoma County seemed to flow out of the audience as Wagner’s “night of love” settled on them. The ensuing trumpet and trombone solos were crisply played, and the rest of the orchestra responded with long, flowing lines that sustained the amorous mood, however briefly.

The Ravel, which begins with the snap of a whip, marked an abrupt shift. Licad leaped into her treacherous lines with tremendous drive and energy, mouthing the key phrases as she stared at the keys. She generated considerable volume and sculpted her phrases flawlessly, even under the onslaught of Ravel’s continuous tremolos. When the jazz-inspired first movement ended, a sizable portion of the audience erupted in applause.

The same unconventional enthusiasm greeted Licad's playing of the second movement, which begins with a long, languorous piano solo. When the orchestra did finally enter, it seemed to be playing accompaniment for an entirely different piece. Here was the connection to Messiaen, who often sets various sections of the orchestra on distinct tracks that nonetheless cohere. The luxurious performance was marred only by a world-record attempt at unwrapping a cough drop, a sound that managed to carry across the balcony through much of the movement.

Any possibility of distraction was blown away during the third movement, which begins as a furious cascade of notes and gets ever so much more so by the end. Licad’s unflagging intensity was matched by the orchestra, in particular by a wonderful bassoon solo. Sadly, the standing ovation didn’t produce an encore.

The piano remained on stage for Turangalîla, but the pianist changed, rematerializing in the form of veteran Bay Area soloist Miles Graber, who shared the limelight with ondes martenot player Mary Chun. Both sat patiently, along with the rest of the orchestra, as Professor Winter expounded on Messiaen, but they kept the blood flowing by playing occasional excerpts at his bidding.

Winter’s introduction may have been helpful for some in the audience, but it was delivered at such a rapid clip and with such flippancy that enthusiasm soon waned. There seemed to be palpable relief when the music actually began.

The orchestra played movements 3, 4, and 5 of Turangalîla, beginning with “Turangalîla 1” (one of three movements whose name is the same as the symphony), continuing with “Chant d’Amour” (Song of love) and concluding with “Joie du Sang des étoiles” (Joy of the blood of the stars).

Ferrandis was completely unflappable, keeping a steady beat and delivering laser-sharp cues despite the music’s overwhelming complexity. The rhythmic variety of the opening movement gave way to the ethereal love song of the second, which featured Graber’s sparkling piano. Both, however, were overshadowed by the last movement, one of the most powerful works ever written for an orchestra.

From the supercharged beginning in the brass to the robust entrances of all the other sections and soloists, Ferrandis maintained a fever pitch of excitement and rhythmic drive. The orchestra seemed to hurl itself into this ecstatic dance, leaving no doubt about the movement’s underlying narrative. It was a rousing performance, beyond words in its intensity. What a pity it had to end so abruptly. Next time, perhaps, the words can be fewer and the music more.

[Reprinted with permission from San Francisco Classical Voice]