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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

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.