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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...
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.