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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

College of Marin Orchestra Conductor Tara Flandreau

TWO HALVES WITH A FEW HOLES

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 22, 2009

After many decades of attending concerts, a listener (or reviewer) faces a tough decision after hearing a first half that in some way is not a complete artistic whole. Leave early or stay for the promising second part? In almost every case not hearing the music that follows intermission would be a mistake. It was thus at the College of Marin (COM) Symphony Orchestra’s concert Nov. 22 at Unity Church on the old Hamilton Air Force Base.

Just two works comprised the program, the first being the most popular of all piano concertos, Tchaikovsky’s No. 1 in B Flat, Op. 23. COM faculty pianist Paul Smith made a heroic effort as the soloist to make the best of a less-than-ideal set of circumstances. The hall, packed with extra seats in the aisles, was overly bright with a long reverberation. The piano was not of professional caliber, and the orchestra, under the baton of Tara Flandreau, experienced pesky intonation problems and inconsistent brass playing. That said, the first movement unfolded with pliant string sounds, fluent but conventional phrasing from the conductor, and the wonderful clarinet playing of David Treganowen. Mr. Treganowen, along with flutist Bruce Salvisberg and bassoonist Karen Wright, played elegantly all afternoon. Mr. Smith’s cadenza, using a lot of pedal in an attempt to generate sound from the instrument, was in the grand manner if not in the middle of the Russian romantic tradition.

In the Adagio, the orchestra’s persistent covering of the soloist disappeared, and a more satisfying interplay of lines appeared. The long trills from the piano were evenly shaped, and the fetching themes were stated with dignity.

Tchaikovsky’s concluding movement has equitable balances between the piano and orchestra, and Ms. Flandreau was in no hurry to get anywhere. Right up to the famous ascending forte octave passage for piano, the orchestra played well. Mr. Smith made the most of these octaves, using half-pedal and getting as much sound as the instrument would give. He didn’t choose the left-hand octave tremolo at the final tutti. A standing ovation ensued.

Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony is a daunting prospect for a non-professional orchestra, the technical demands to the last desk heavy and nearly always exposed. But the 1937 work brought a sharply different orchestra than was heard in the Tchaikovsky, the attacks and releases more sure, the strings more resonant. There was more security of pitch for the brass section, and the addition of the accompanying piano and electronic celesta was welcome. In the opening Moderato, the big sound was clear, and the tempo was steady. Piccolo soloist Dawna Stebbins played with penetrating clarity. Virtuosic playing in the second movement came from Ms. Wright and from the pizzicato unisons in the strings.

The long Largo, a precursor to Hovhanness’ “Mysterious Mountain” Symphony, was taken at an overly relaxed tempo, but it also left plenty of time for the counterpoint from Messrs. Salvisberg and Treganowen and the beguiling harp playing of Michelyn French. A threnody, the sad march moved deliberately along, the harp and celesta parts in a duo which echoed much of the composer’s more dissonant and longer Fourth Symphony (1936).

Ms. Flandreau brought to the Allegro non troppo the requisite power, the return of the march theme again having the benefit of precision string playing and the reiteration of the “A” notes in the violins. The tympani solo (Robert Jakubs) was positively militaristic, a sober introduction to the carnage of the finale, where Ms. Flandreau carefully slowed the tempo to the last potent chords, holding the audience breathless.

Shostakovich’s mighty creation always generates a standing ovation, and it received one here.