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Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, January 22, 2011
Enrique Diemecke, conductor
Sharon Isbin, guitar

Spanish Composer Joaquin Rodrigo

DYNAMIC DIEMECKE LEADS BOUYANT RODRIGO AND DISSONANT CHÁVEZ AT SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Robin Brown
Saturday, January 22, 2011

A nearly full house of Santa Rosa Symphony concert goers wildly applauded guest conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke Jan. 22 at Wells Fargo Center. Piazzola's “Tangazo” stood out as the most enjoyable score of the evening, and the final concert the set Jan. 24 is recommended.

Mr. Diemecke uses his whole body in conducting, including a close golpe (flat foot beat) and his entertaining signature "Ta-Dah" with arms extended laterally. He mimed a bowing violin and once used only fingertips to close an exciting pianissimo. Undoubtedly in demand for operas, Mr. Diemecke is a baton-less dancer, sexy in the most loveable, music-marriageable sense. His downbeat rarely has a bottom so players must carefully listen to each other. Surprisingly the conductor’s unique podium techniques were effective because the Symphony sounded even better than when I heard it last season, and his infectious zeal goes beyond conducting.

Women guitar soloists are rarissimo and I recall with sadness the guitar virtuoso Ida Presti's early death. The concert’s soloist for this evening, Sharon Isbin, was tastelessly advertised and attired in quasi country and western glitz. She came, saw but did not conquer because Mr. Diemecke led the Symphony to a peak performance, easily stealing the whole concert limelight. Ms. Isbin is a good professional guitarist but her nylon-strung classical guitar's modest voice can't compete with an orchestra tutti so she required directional microphone amplification. She won the audience in the Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez but, lacking of awareness or taste, Ms. Isbin chose to encore and to verbally pitch her CD lobby-sales and play a folksy arpeggio in an on-and-on solo encore. People applauded but not as enthusiastically as after the lovely, accessible Rodrigo masterwork. In the Concierto Ms. Isbin played well but lacked the incisive rasqueado strum of flamenco master accompanists. One closing rasgueado was actually zesty. Rodrigo is one of Spain's famous regional folk-music-inspired composers and has stated that his lovely, melancholic Adagio movement was born of his great love for his wife who at the time of composition was hospitalized in Paris. The royal castle garden in Aranjuez was their honeymoon site and Rodrigo became partially sighted at an early age and created mostly Braille music scores.

Ms. Isbin's performance technique confirms Andrés Segovia's advocacy of footstool under supporting leg, guitar-neck angled up to favor fingering wrist, both hands and finger positions. The great Spanish guitarist opened the world market for solo guitar classics by playing his many fine transcriptions, improving fingerings and encouraging composers. He encouraged, fingered and premiered in San Francisco a second Rodrigo guitar concerto, one of three he wrote from 1966 to 1982. One of Ms. Isbin's teachers, Oscar Ghiglia (of Rome), played his first Berkeley solo concert after assisting Segovia in the UC Berkeley Guitar Master Class.

The opening Suomalainen Tango by Pablo Ortíz (from Buenos Aires, 1956) remains a mystery to me. The composer who was in the audience stood to acknowledge the applause which then grew louder. Perhaps the orchestra players lacked rehearsal time for the Tango's counter-accents, but later they executed counter-accents well in the Piazzolla Tangazo (big tango) for Orchestra, also known as Variations on Buenos Aries. This was the highlight of the concert - bright, full of delightful surprises, a musician's joy by another of Argentina's sterling musicians! In the Rodrigo the Adagio movement competed favorably in execution.

Closing the concert was Chávez' Symphony No. 4, Sinfonía Romántico, a 21-minute work from 1953. This was a very late-romantic, highly dissonant, dense and darkly puzzling score. Mr. Diemecke, from Mexico, has often conducted this piece and drove his interpretation with a force that Chávez would have appreciated. The composer moved to New York after building “Sinfonía Nacional” and eventually heading the national conservatory in Mexico City where he had originally studied. Did this Chávez work presage a more violent Mexico? This Symphony concert and my questions close on a troubled note.

Robin Brown is Music Director of Santa Rosa’s Flamenco Arts, has taught guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory and Chico State University, and studied guitar with Alilio Díaz.