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HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 10, 2010
Festival Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Pollack
Stephen Prutsman, piano
William Kligelhoffer, horn

Conductor Allan Pollack gestures to the Festival Orchestra after the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony

ALL RUSSIAN PROGRAM LAUNCHES 24TH MENDOCINO FESTIVAL SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2010

In a high-energy program of Russian music, conductor Allan Pollack and his Festival Orchestra opened the 24th Mendocino Music Festival season in grand style July 11 in the massive white tent on the Mendocino headlands bluff.

Even before the downbeat for the Shostakovich “Festival Overture,” Op. 96, the excitement in the tent was palpable. On mounting the podium, Mr. Pollack received a standing ovation mixed with yells and whistles. Clearly the audience honors his decades of musical work on the North Coast, and the Overture launched the entire Festival with sonic splendor. The opening flourish in the horns pressaged a big night for brass and Mr. Pollack drove the tempos throughout, leading to a romp in the coda. It was a weighty reading, lacking the usual Shostakovich acerbic texture but altogether effective.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in E Minor, Op. 64, was the evening’s highlight. Though cold fog swirled around outside of the tent, the “fate” motive of the first movement was warmly stated, first in the low strings and bass clarinet, and in the march theme. This is familiar territory for Tchaikovsky, the “motto” theme always in the low register The first block of four repeated chords (four times) was deftly handled by Mr. Pollack with a chaste ritard, giving just the right heft to the phrase. The clarinet solos from principal Art Austin were uniformly elegant, though the pungent horns tended to cover the strings, an all-evening deficit. Tchaikovsky’s counterpoint was here underlined by a lovely interplay of cellos, violas and again horns.

The famous horn solo that begins the second movement (after a long and muted introduction) was played tenderly and almost “sui generis” by William Klingelhoffer, followed by principal oboist Thomas Nugent’s emotional solo in the second theme. The third-movement Waltz was handled by the Orchestra with style, spotlighting Carolyn Lockhart’s bassoon artistry.

The finale was feast for trumpets and trombones, Tchaikovsky’s orchestration a vivid example of what he learned from his teacher Anton Rubinstein and how effectively he surpassed that master. Mr. Pollack kept everything in hand, the “fate” theme returning and the coda in every way triumphant. There was distinct voice leading and the secondary idea of a martial character, exemplified by a pulsating ostinato bass, rang throughout the hall. The ending, with rich brass phrases, was splendid. This movement seems overly long compared with the rollicking finale of the Fourth Symphony, the ideas piling up and sometimes difficult to follow.

The ovation for the conductor, his orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s genius was loud and long.

Ending the first half was a stalwart but somewhat unsatisfying account of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, Op. 26, with San Francisco-based Stephen Prutsman as the soloist. Mr. Prutsman’s playing of the popular work, seemingly a stable in every piano competition, was effective and provided fast scales in abundance. The problem in the performance was one of balance as the orchestral sound frequently covered the soloist. One could see Mr. Prutsman but could not easily hear him.

The machine-gun like rhythms of the finale were never a challenge for Mr. Prutsman, but the filigree on the edges of the composer’s demanding themes tended to be lost in the tent’s acoustics. The string entries were often ragged and there were sporadic bobbles in the horns, something of little import in this powerful concerto. No real pianistic “color” is needed for this work with its driving style and histrionics, and the soloist and conductor were of one mind.

A strange occurrence happened at the last fortissimo chord of the Prokofiev when the house lights were suddenly extinguished. Was it the impact of Mr. Prutsman’s pianism in the pungent treble of the piano? A too-energetic final downbeat from the conductor? A slip by a backstage technician? We may never know.