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...
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...
!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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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 ...
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...
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.
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.