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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’...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, February 13, 2010
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Berenika, piano

Berhzad Ranjbaran

THREE HITS AND A MISS AT SRSO CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the fifth set of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts in the current season, conductor Bruno Ferrandis programmed a world premiere and ended with a familiar Schumann symphony. In between were Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto, Op. 21, with soloist Berenika Zakrzewski, and Schumann's "Manfred" overture.

Berhzad Ranjbaran’s “Mithra” was the premiere, part of the Magnum Opus series of new works commissioned by a Silicon Valley philanthropist and played subsequently by three Bay Area orchestras. It was a fetching composition, with fine playing from the Orchestra and good control of sonic balance from Mr. Ferrandis. In three sections, beginning with a haunting flute solo by Kathleen Lane Reynolds, the work spotlights low-register strings, with many short motives competing for prominence. Bits, but only bits, of Shostakovich orchestra color populate the first section, the woodwind slides intriguing and combining with piquant notes from marimba. The middle section, faster and with no less intensity than the opening part, was energetically played. Mr. Ranjbaran has a consummate command of orchestration and instrumental color.

After two sets of what can be called four-note “thuds,” a lyrical harp solo from Randall Pratt introduced a lofty flute passage, creating a bucolic effect with the violins playing with diminished vibrato. The final chords, carefully paced by Ferrandis, magically brought the 15-minute piece to a gentle end. Ms. Reynolds’ sui generis work with the flute is a pillar of the Orchestra. One wonders why she hasn’t played a formal recital here in many years. Are there any flute recitals anymore?

Berenika (the stage name she prefers to use) was less than impressive in the Chopin concerto, a luscious composition built on thematic designs from the Italian operas the composer loved. Mostly she didn’t have a musical clue of the subtlety and lyrical richness of the work, and for this writer it was the least professional performance of a concerto heard within memory in Wells. Looking back to past SRSO performances of standard repertoire, Lang Lang camped and banged his way through the Rachmaninoff Third many years ago, but understood the grandeur of the work. More recently Jonathan Biss played a boring Schumann A Minor Concerto, at least until the finale, but understood the composer’s rhythmic delights.

Here the tempos Mr. Ferrandis used, nearly throughout, generated muddy passages in fast scales from Berenika and lack of cogent phrasing. The reading was as fast as the ne plus ultra of Op. 21 recordings, the Hofmann/Barbirolli/NY Philharmonic from 1938, even though Barbirolli takes a long cut in the orchestra introduction. There never was a really adept use of pianistic rubato in the entire performance. But the lack of lyricism in Chopin’s beguiling themes was the key defect of Berenika’s playing. An example of this of this could be found at measure 306, in the apex of the cadenza, where Chopin writes a descending right-hand detaché figure followed immediately by florid 16-note phrase, each tone worthy of attention and meaning. Berenika simply played through it without any thought to its majesty and expressive character. It was also difficult to hear her bass chords, even the final one in F Minor after the right hand trill.

The enchanting Larghetto, perhaps Chopin’s most sublime concerted movement, proceeded at a more relaxed pace, but here again the soloist tended to rush into each phrase, missing the tenderness that makes the movement a connoisseur's favorite, and even the subject of several solo transcriptions. Berenika played “on top” of the keys, never getting an opulent sound from the instrument. The finale (Allegro vivace) was the best of the night’s playing. The right-hand skips were nailed, and there was rhythmic interest in this rollicking Rondo. But it was still small-scale playing, pedaling covering clarity in scales, the whole sounding like an conservatory student in a rehearsal run-through.

Schumann’s large orchestral works clearly are close to Mr. Ferrandis’ heart. In the second half, he conducted the Op. 115 “Manfred” Overture in E-Flat Major, Op. 115, and the grand D Minor Symphony, the Fourth, Op. 120. Both benefited by the conductor’s sense of the “long line” needed to carry Schumann’s more somber symphonic pieces. So different from the joyous “Rhenish” Third Symphony, the D Minor only has joy in the concluding Langsam-Lebhaft, but under Ferrandis’ baton the music was riveting. Flutist Bonnie Lockett was a perfect match for her section mate Reynolds in the energetic opening movement. Acting principal cellist Robin Bonell opened the A Minor Romanze with a lovely solo, the Orchestra then playing to the solo violin passages of Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg.

In the final two movements Mr. Ferrandis essentially abandoned looking at the score in front of him, his identification with Schumann’s vitality was so thorough. He has a sweeping ability to balance sectional resonance and volume, difficult to do in both the Symphony and the shorter, convoluted Overture.

The final movement, in D Major, was characterized by fine trumpet playing from Doug Morton and Dan Norris, and equally effective trombone work of Amy Bowers, Kurt Patzner and David Kunkle. The nearly full house provided warm applause to the players, with the conductor surely relishing the radiance his artistry brought to two of Schumann’s dark but edifying works.