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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.