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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
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.