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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Alasdair Neale, conductor
Edward Abrams, guest conductor
Christine Brewer, soprano

Soprano Christine Brewer in Marin

OUTSIDE THE ROMANTIC PALE

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In a finale to a year of literature-based programs (“Season of the Scribe’) the Marin Symphony April 13 presented a curious mix of compositions that purported to have a common romantic theme. Preceding the sonic splendor of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and the “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde was an eclectic first half of works by Samuel Barber and contemporary composer David Carlson, both well outside the 19th-century romantic pale.

In the concert’s opening Second Essay for Orchestra of Barber, Music Director Alasdair Neale gave the baton to protégé Edward Abrams, and all went well with the 12-minute work from 1942. The strings were sonorous, with Mr. Abrams bringing balanced control to this concentrated piece. There was rich clarinet playing from principal Arthur Austin and a lovely trio with Mr. Austin, principal bassoonist Carla Wilson and oboist Margot Golding. The introspective nature of Barber’s popular piece, at least before the powerful climaxes and foreboding unison strings at the end, was artfully introduced by flutist Monica Daniel-Barker.

Prior to intermission the Symphony presented the world premiere of Carlson’s The Promise of Time, featuring soprano Christine Brewer. Based on dramatic lyrics by Susan Kinsolving, the three-movement work was part of a commissioning project by a Silicon Valley philanthropist that has benefited several Bay Area orchestras. Composed of three parts – “Blossoms Abundant,” “Velocity,” and “Hourglass” – the thick-textured work was not always cordial for Brewer’s powerful voice. The musical references seemed mostly to come from Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs,” an autumnal work from the post-World War II period just before Strauss’ death. In “Velocity,” Brewer sang with weighty projection, but the words, at least from the tenth row, were mostly unintelligible.

The more lyrical third movement, absent the vehement multiple crescendi of “Velocity,” and with themes rising from the depths of the orchestra, was telling. Mr. Neale, conducting from score, caught the nostalgic bent of the music, and it seemed a long-familiar work rather than something novel and demanding. The massive ending chords with cymbals and brass were thrilling. The composer and lyricist took bows with Mr. Neale and Ms. Brewer.

Following a long intermission, Mr. Neale conducted an assured Siegfried Idyll (1870) performance, offering brisk tempos without score or baton. The long clarinet solo from Mr. Austin joined with pungent playing from the oboes. It was elegant Wagner throughout, the conductor clearly relishing the long romantic lines after the histrionics of the concert’s first half.

The “Idyll,” one of Wagner’s few non-operatic works, led smoothly into Isolde’s panegyric to warmly receptive death. Ms. Brewer returned to stage center to pit her formidable voice against the large orchestra. She had all well in hand, with only the low range being covered by the orchestra, and her top notes resounded to the last row of seats. The Symphony’s five-member horn section, led by Alex Camphouse, gave potent support. It was exalted music making of a score that will never seem routine. Mr. Neale crafted the extended operatic phrases with care and visual attention to Brewer’s singing.

Oddly the great Wagner ode didn’t have an ecstatic effect on the nearly full house. There were the standard flowers for the soloist, but not a universal standing ovation or many recalls. The performance deserved more.