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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Napa Valley Symphony / Friday, May 29, 2009
Asher Raboy, conducting
Lynn Harrell, cello

Cellist Lynn Harrell Playing the Dvorak Concerto

MELODIOUS AND CONVINCING DVORAK BY HARRELL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, May 29, 2009

It’s not often that listeners have a chance to hear what arguably is the best work in a single classical genre, especially a concerto. On May 29, the Napa Valley Symphony offered just such an opportunity in Yountville’s Lincoln Theater when they performed the magnificent Dvorak Cello Concerto with veteran soloist Lynn Harrell.

Cello aficionados looking for a performance similar to Yo Yo Ma’s lyrical flights or Rostropovich’s magisterial intensity would have been disappointed, as Harrell provided an elegantly paced and ultimately low-key reading under the baton of Asher Raboy. Before a nearly full hall in the final concert of the Symphony’s 76th season, Harrell gave the luminous second theme of the opening Allegro movement rich color and nuance, never forcing the lush romanticism and always expanding on the phrases from the Orchestra. His duos with clarinetist Diane Maltester and the entire French horn section were captivating.

The poetic Adagio movement, both pastoral and troubled in character, found the soloist in a ruminating mood, never in a hurry to get anywhere. The three trills high up on the cello’s strings at the movement’s conclusion were played quietly and effortlessly, carrying to the back of the theater. The hall’s silence was palpable, though intruding applause broke the spell prior to the beginning of the final movement.

The Allegro moderato finale was full of restrained virtuosity, the opening march theme turning into a dance, the modulations frequent and telling. Concertmaster Yasushi Ogura traded graceful phrases with Harrell, their eyes seeming to reveal the joy of performing such opulent music, premiered in 1896 and a staple since for every concert cellist. The Orchestra responded to Raboy’s ebullient control, and joined in a rousing ovation for Harrell, along the mostly standing audience. In sum, Harrell offered a balanced, melodious and convincing performance of a passionate score.

The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, the initial sound harmed by a loud Friday night audience and lack of volume from the violins. Here, and in the following Jeu de Cartes of Stravinsky, the powerful brass section tended to swamp the high strings.

Written in 1936 for a ballet, the Stravinsky score seems to have infinite sections, and for me works better when the original dancers portray the convoluted but brilliantly scored music, often polytonal and alternatively sardonic and whimsical. The horns, sure-footed everywhere else, bobbled some notes but in no way diminished the florid decoration of sound. Principal flutist Rebecca Pollock-Ayers had a fetching solo in the first movement’s dance variation, and the winds all around were exemplary.

The syncopated rhythms Stravinsky first developed in his pre-classical period ballets (Firebird, Petrushka, the Rite of Spring) were still in evidence, as in the pulsing repeated notes from Scott Stubbs’ tuba. No composer of that era was able to combine such rhythmic power with such taunting orchestral timbre as did Stravinsky. Maestro Raboy’s pithy introductory remarks about the music’s origins were matched by his attention to the tricky details of keeping everything in balance. A lot of balls were in the air, and in the cards, in this agitated 20-minute performance.

Though facing financial hurdles as with other community orchestras, the Napa Valley Symphony is performing on a high level, playing challenging music with élan and professional finish.