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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
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.