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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.