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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
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.