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Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
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.