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HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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...
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.