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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
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.