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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
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.