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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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
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 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.