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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.