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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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’...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, December 05, 2009
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir

Bruno Ferrandis, Music Director and Conductor

WE HAVE IGNITION

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, December 05, 2009

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been played repeatedly in Sonoma County during the past decade, beginning with a memorable performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony under Jeffrey Kahane in the aftermath of 9/11. That event was so successful that several other renditions followed, including one in the Sonoma State University gym. The culmination, however, arrived at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, with a spine-tingling presentation by the Santa Rosa Symphony under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.

One of the challenges of performing Beethoven’s Ninth is figuring out what to program during the first half. The Ninth runs more than an hour, so the usual overture and concerto make for an extended evening. The solution here was to avail the symphony of the choir and perform Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. At 20 minutes, it’s short enough to whet the appetite without tiring the ear.

Sadly, the Stravinsky proved no match for the subsequent Beethoven. The reduced orchestra, with woodwinds in place of violins, produced a thin sound, and the 50-voice Sonoma County Bach Choir, hampered by the dry acoustic, never achieved the resonant tones it produces in its usual liturgical venues. (Full, happy disclosure: I sometimes sing in the Bach Choir.)

The performance did perk up a bit in the third movement, with the choir’s strong Alleluias and Laudates. Ferrandis, mouthing the words, exhorted more from the assemblage, yet it was all over too quickly for the music to take off.

The liftoff occurred in the second half, beginning with a long countdown during which the Bach Choir, the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus, and the Montgomery High School Chamber Singers — about 150 in all — filed on stage. There were enough singers to account for most of the full house, assuming each singer brought one or more friends or relatives.

The singers stood shoulder to shoulder at the back of the stage and then seated themselves, with much bending of knees, to await their turn in the fourth movement. Meanwhile, the soloists were notably absent, perhaps out of fear that they would divert attention from the orchestra.

When that ensemble finally began to play, ignition was immediate. The opening two-note figure was both mysterious and evocative, giving way to a blistering tempo under Ferrandis’ strict control. His movements have become more spare during his tenure in Santa Rosa, even as his command of the orchestra has grown more acute.

Ferrandis made the architecture of this architectural symphony readily apparent. Each line was distinct, even crystalline. The string sound, in particular, was short and punchy, with little sustain. That style of play was well-suited to the hurtling speed emanating from the podium, where Ferrandis’ foot seemed to have pegged the accelerator to the floor.

The scattered applause at the conclusion of the first movement quickly gave way to the crisp attack and even more rapid rate of the Molto vivace second movement. Someone near me started to moan, perhaps from heart fibrillations. I began to wonder if Ferrandis was giving the music enough room to breathe, but I soon succumbed to the compelling logic of 1-2-1-2, with octaves in the strings to reinforce the point.

After yet more applause, the soloists made their way onto the stage, and Ferrandis began the Adagio third movement. Here the up-tempo rendition worked against the music, which cries out for a more luxuriant, resonant approach. The continuing short, punchy bow strokes of the violins seemed out of place, while the winds were sometimes ragged.

No matter. The fourth movement started magisterially and got better from there. The cellos and basses were magnificent, their low tones projecting outward, their rhythm secure. The viola and bassoon duet was equally good, and the violin entry was thrilling.

Just as I began to wonder what could top all that exquisite playing, baritone Joseph Wiggett intoned, “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!” (O friends, not these sounds!). Wiggett possesses a marvelous voice, with excellent German diction and an orotund sound. On cue, the assembled choirs rang out, “Freude!” (Joy!), benefiting greatly from their increased number.

The rest of the symphony was electrifying. The chorus blended seamlessly with the orchestra, as did the soloists. The final vocal quartet was a model of balanced ensemble, with each voice clearly audible.

The real star, however, was Ferrandis himself, who kept a tight grip on all the proceedings. I have rarely seen his musicians play so intently, or so well. Their fingers were really flying, and they kept hurtling through space right until the last note.

Reprinted with permission from San Francisco Classical Voice