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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Monday, February 18, 2008
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Ingrid Fliter, piano

Ingrid Fliter

AN OCEAN OF SOUND

by Steve Osborn
Monday, February 18, 2008

The Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Feb. 18 featured gifted local players, an internationally recognized soloist, and a superb conductor; but the real star was the sea, as evoked in a memorable performance of Debussy's "La Mer." The other works on the program (by Dutilleux, Beethoven and Fauré) paled in comparison to this French impressionist masterpiece.

The evening began not with music but with an evident change in the string sections. With the exception of concertmaster Joseph Edelberg and the principal violists, all the first and second chairs were either new or shuffled upward from the ranks. The same held true for the rest of the strings: some familiar faces but lots of new ones. As shown in "The Freeway Philharmonic," KQED's recent documentary about freelance musicians, the personnel in the Santa Rosa Symphony and other regional orchestras is constantly shifting. What is remarkable is how well Maestro Bruno Ferrandis is able to hold the orchestra together, despite its protean tendencies. Who knows what he could accomplish if his musicians didn't keep changing from concert to concert?

Speaking of inconstancy, the opening work, Henri Dutilleux's Métaboles, from 1965, was all about change. The work offered five slowly metabolizing movements, each one demonstrating how a musical idea can develop through orchestration, dynamics, phrasing, and other tricks in the composer's bag. The names of the movements speak for themselves: Incantatory, Linear, Obsessional, Torpid, and Flamboyant.

"Incantatory" was just that, beginning with plucked strings and light percussion, then gradually adding winds and brass. As the texture thickened, the strings broke out their bows, moving from individual droplets to waves of connected notes. "Linear" began with a beautiful solo from the freelance principal cellist (her name didn't appear in the program) and proceeded linearly through the orchestra at a luxurious pace. Attention in the next two movements shifted to the brass, which played jazz-like riffs above a walking bass line. The sound was often reminiscent of Miles Davis and Gil Evans recordings from the 1950s. The "Flamboyant" finale began with a rapid ostinato figure in the violas that got passed around until nearly every section in the orchestra was playing its own riff. The inevitable crescendo and climax were impressive, if somewhat predictable.

After the full-throated and resonant sonorities of the Dutilleux, the reduced forces employed for Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto sounded somewhat muted. It took a while to get used to the sonorities of an orchestra dominated by strings, with only a few token woodwinds and no brass or percussion. The emptiness could have been filled by the piano soloist, Ingrid Fliter, but her attack was so pointed and sharp that the notes didn't have much chance to resonate. At times, she made the upper registers sound almost like a fortepiano.

Fliter is clearly an accomplished pianist who can play all the notes, but she tends to let go of phrases too early and let them fade into nothingness. The various sections of the opening movement didn't flow into each other, leaving the impression of discrete passages rather than a connected work. In the slow movement, her touch was too heavy, and the piano didn't resonate. Her playing improved in the final movement, however, which she danced through in true Rondo form.

The second half of the concert opened with a delightful rendition of Gabriel Fauré's "Masques et bergamasques," a suite that he assembled after the First World War by orchestrating some of his older works. The four sections--Overture, Minuet, Gavotte, and Pastorale--come across like piano miniatures, full of life and energy. Maestro Ferrandis was clearly in his element, using a light touch to blend the orchestra and make it dance. He is truly a joy to watch, with his sweeping gestures and intricate hand movements. Each one means something to the orchestra, which in this case translated his gyrations into music of ravishing simplicity and joy. If only Fauré had written more.

In contrast to Fauré's string of pearls, Debussy's "La Mer" is an intricate necklace, painstakingly assembled from a treasure chest of sonic jewels. Debussy's orchestration is second to none, and he employs all the forces at his disposal to create a dynamic portrait of the sea in all its moods and weathers. Harnessing all those forces and moving them forward is the conductor's job, one that Ferrandis never shirks from. He emphasized fluidity above all, coaxing the orchestra to swell and recede like waves in constant motion. He also brought out the narrative line that sustains the listener's interest throughout the work.

The first movement, with its evocation of dawn over the sea gradually brightening to noon, moved inexorably forward, building to a spine-tingling moment at the end, when an imagined sun bursts forth in all its glory. The second movement, "Play of the waves," was dominated by a shimmering pair of expertly played harps, but the third movement was all Ferrandis, one's eyes drawn again and again to his perpetually moving hands and fingers. At one moment, all the fingers on his left hand are splayed out; then the thumb and index join together to form a circle, all the while moving up and down. An instant later, he gives a cue with his index finger, then opens his palms as if to beseech the orchestra for more sound. Just as quickly, the fingers spring to his lips, quieting the tempest. And all the while, his right hand grips the baton, giving a steady and unwavering beat.

The effect was magical, impressive, unforgettable. Santa Rosa is really lucky to have a conductor of Ferrandis's caliber. His musicians may come from the "Freeway Philharmonic," but he's a master at directing traffic.