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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...
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
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
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.