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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, October 09, 2010
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Dmitri Berlinsky, violin

Violinist Dmitri Berlinsky

OVERTURE WITHOUT OPERA

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 09, 2010

For the opening set of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 2010-11 season, Music Director Bruno Ferrandis chose four Italian works, perhaps in acknowledgement of that culture’s immense influence on musical history.

The concert began promisingly with a fine rendition of Verdi’s overture to the opera “La Forza del Destino.” The Symphony, augmented by about a dozen players from the Youth Orchestra, played with conviction and solidity. Ferrandis sustained the rhythmic drive throughout, and the brass offered strong statements of the opera’s themes, punctuated by emotional outbursts from the strings. Melody was everywhere.

Sadly, those melodies were soon replaced by the insipid tunes of Paganini’s first violin concerto, a bravura showpiece that includes just about every trick a virtuoso can muster other than musical interest. The piece is all about technique, with little regard for what the notes are actually conveying. Soloist Dmitri Berlinksy proved himself mostly up to the task, traversing the fingerboard with lightning speed and bouncing his bow with alacrity. There were glissandos aplenty, along with slithering double stops and deftly placed harmonics. Setting himself squarely between the first and second violins in full sight of the conductor, Berlinksy swayed convincingly to the orchestra’s steady beat.

The difficulty of the part produced some inevitable intonation problems, particularly during the multi-octave leaps and the incessant double stops. More problematic was how the barrage of notes tended to muffle the violin’s sound. Mr. Berlinksy produced a beautiful tone when given the chance, but it was hard for his violin to resonate under Paganini’s obliterating sauce of sixteenth notes. I found myself longing for Paganini’s countryman Vivaldi, who wrote plenty of violin concertos in his quintessential Italian style. They may not be as virtuosic as Paganini’s, but they offer a lot more musical meat. I seemed to be in the minority, however, for the end of the piece brought a sustained standing ovation from the less than full house.

During intermission, the audience strolled through the Wells Fargo Center’s recently renovated lobby. Gone are the hideous chandelier and worn carpet, replaced by track lighting, gray walls, new carpeting and open railings. The resulting space seems far more open than its predecessor, and certainly more refined.

Back inside the auditorium, Mr. Ferrandis alluded to carpets while introducing the next work, Luciano Berio’s “Rendering” of Schubert’s sketches for a 10th symphony. Berio, according to Mr. Ferrandis, had taken the “moth-eaten red carpet” of Schubert’s sketches and filled the holes with a “blue thread” consisting of Berio’s reworking of other Schubert melodies. These transitional passages are always heralded by the celesta, an instrument not yet invented in Schubert’s day.

The first movement definitely sounded like Schubert, with a lilting Schubertian melody and unmistakable Schubertian orchestration, bound together by the composer’s characteristic alternation between major and minor. Berio’s transitional passages, when they arrived, seemed to place the audience inside Schubert’s head as he perused his other works while puzzling out how to fill the space.

The second movement opened with an ethereal duet for oboe and bassoon, and the proceedings showed off Mr. Ferrandis at his most elegant, as he sculpted the majestic if incomplete theme. By the third movement, however, the music had drifted far from typical Schubert. Perhaps the composer was turning in a new direction during his last days, but the fugues and contrapuntal methods seemed out of place, as did Berio’s increasingly disconnected transitions.

All in all, “Rendering” offered some beautiful music, but the Italian theme might have been better served by a pure Berio piece, of which there are many.

The concert closed with a well-played rendition of Respighi’s “The Fountains of Rome.” Composed in 1916, this piece, like its more famous companion “The Pines of Rome,” is pure program music, focused almost entirely on trying to convey a picture through sound. The water motif is the strongest, with repeated suggestions of fountain jets, rushing water and waves. Birds, usually represented by tremolos, also populate the sonic space, as do the wind and occasional horn calls from water deities.

Under Mr. Ferrandis, the Symphony offered credible renditions of the sonic images. The flutes sounded like birds, the strings like water, the horns like the god Triton. Unfortunately, the music itself doesn’t really go anywhere, so it ends up being a series of tableaux rather than a compelling narrative.

Perhaps that lack of narrative is what made the concert feel flat. Other than the Verdi, none of the pieces offered much in the way of musical drama. We got to hear the overture, but not the opera.