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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Composer Ron McFarland with pianists (left) Ava Soifer and Eliane Lust

MCFARLAND'S MUSIC FEATURED IN LAVISH MARIN CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Even the most ardent classical music lover would be hard pressed to name a composer of stature that actually resides in the North Bay. Janis and Brian Wilson might be mentioned, and of course there are effervescent Charles Sepos and Healdsburg resident Charles Shere. And John Adams has a home north of Jenner. But for productivity spanning four decades, and manifold performances, only Marin composer Ron McFarland meets every qualification.

Friends of the Tiburon composer paid him homage Feb. 13 in a house concert featuring only Mr. McFarland’s music. A student of Schoenberg for composition and Leginska for piano, McFarland’s music is complicated structurally but uses conventional forms and a harmonic language that is frequently dense but almost always accessible.

Marin Symphony principal cellist Jan Volkert, launching the evening with a world premiere, gave a lithe and perky performance with pianist Ava Soifer of the Fantasy Variations for Cello and Piano. The work is graceful on the ear, distinctly different than the 12 Preludes for Piano played by San Francisco virtuoso Eliane Lust. Ms. Lust, a crusader for McFarland’s music, recently recorded the entire set of 24 Preludes, titled Les Hommages. Here the references, in blocks of two, were to Poulenc, Satie, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Liszt and Ravel. Getting all the sound possible from the small house instrument, Ms. Lust underscored the composer’s rhythmic vitality and sporadic playfulness at phrase endings. A more idiomatic performance can’t be imagined and the audience of 33 responded lustily.

Cal State East Bay faculty violinist Philip Santos continued the Valentine-themed tribute with powerful reading of the Violin Sonata, ably partnered by Ms. Soifer. This was perhaps the gnarliest work of the concert, much of the fiddle’s part placed in the high register and demanding a clean spiccato bow technique. Ms. Soifer made the most of the felicitous piano part, seldom chordal, and the balances were good in the small room. The violinist played the strident harmonies with strong accents and accurate intonation.

The final two works, a Serenade for Piano Trio and five songs for soprano and piano trio, were of recent vintage and displayed a more relaxed compositional outlook. The Serenade, from 2009, is a short work of 23 pages packed with melodic invention and mastery of the chamber music idiom. Everything was in its place – Mr. Santos’ elegant short trills in the andante cantabile, Ms. Volker’s piquant three-note pizzicatos in the concluding Allegro scherzando, and Ms. Soifer’s secure octave playing throughout. This fresh-minted piece needs the attention of our prominent resident trios – Trio Navarro, San Francisco Piano Trio and the Tilden Trio.

Soprano Sara Ganz joined the Trio for “Songs from The Book of Love,” preceded by a long instrumental prelude. Particularly fetching were “It Rains, Beloved” and “I See You Coming Toward Me,” taking advantage of Ms. Ganz’ nimble and magnetic vocal projection, identifying completely with these eclectic and polished songs. She was definitely the soloist, her voice frequently soaring above the ensemble with potent clarity.

Following words of thanks by the composer, concert host Bruce Wolfe served a terrific dinner featuring cuisine of India, with most of the dishes prepared in his kitchen.