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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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]