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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Monday, December 12, 2011
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Karen Clift, soprano; Jubilant Sykes, baritone. Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir.

Composer Johannes Brahms

ORCHESTRA UNITED AT THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY

by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 12, 2011

Near the end of its Dec. 12 performance of the Brahms Requiem, a soprano in the Santa Rosa Symphony Honor Choir collapsed at the back of the stage, perhaps from excessive heat or lack of air. The incident wasn't surprising, since more than 100 singers were crammed shoulder to shoulder in the limited space. What was surprising was that the singers were able to project a unified sound, given that the assembled multitude was actually composed of four choirs, ranging from the Santa Rosa High School Chamber Singers to two choirs from Santa Rosa Junior College plus the venerable Sonoma Bach Choir.

Unanimity took a while to arrive, but when it did, the results were gratifying, particularly in the latter movements of the Requiem. Of these, the concluding seventh was the most affecting, where the lightly accompanied choir sang "Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben, von nun an" (Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth). The ensemble was impeccable, gently urged forward by Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, whose fluid arm motions helped sustain each line and bring the piece to a heartfelt ending.

The singing in the preceding movements was less assured, yet the orchestra was rock-solid throughout. The violas seemed to relish being on top of the heap in the first movement, which has no violin parts. They led a strong beginning that was shortly marred by some intonation problems in the choir, which tended to go flat. These difficulties were compounded by Ferrandis' slow tempos and disconnected strokes. Phrases didn't flow into each other, and the music seemed to lurch.

By the second movement, the voices (and pitches) warmed up a notch, leading to some impressive crescendos and strong entries. Baritone soloist Jubilant Sykes took over in the third, strenuously pleading with the Lord to show that "mein Leben ein Ziel hat" (my life has an aim). His voice, which had been sadly amplified in the first half (more on that later), was both riveting and rounded, and his diction was superb.

In contrast, soprano Karen Clift, the soloist in the fifth movement, seemed constricted, her true voice barely emerging from an excess of vibrato. She sounded better in her lower range, and her swells were well controlled, but the overall performance was not up to the standard Sykes had set.

Alternating with the soloists throughout, the choir finally hit its stride in the fourth movement and sang out fully in the sixth, particularly in the section beginning "Denn es wird die Posaune schallen" (For the trumpet shall sound).

Trumpets of a different sort sounded in the first half, when Sykes sang the spirituals "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Were You There?" into an unnecessary microphone. Everyone knows that the acoustics at the Wells Fargo Center are bad, but they aren't bad enough to require a microphone, especially for a singer as powerful as Sykes. The Wells Fargo isn't Yankee Stadium.

As if to demonstrate the blessing and the curse of artificial sound, Sykes began "Sometimes" slightly below a whisper, gradually building up in volume while swooping and soaring from one end of his range to the other. The inevitable loud passages were simply too loud, his voice ricocheting around the theater from speakers suspended over the balconies. The same pattern repeated in "Were You There?" which culminates in the line "Sometimes I feel like shouting." And he did.

Before the spirituals, the orchestra warmed up the full house with a respectable but rather lackluster performance of Brahms' "Tragic Overture." In keeping with the expansive spirit of the evening, the ensemble was supplemented for the overture with about a dozen young musicians from the Symphony's Youth Orchestra. Both young and not-so-young played all the notes, yet the piece lacked shape, a formlessness compounded by Ferrandis' slow tempo.

Given that the Requiem was looming in the second half, the concert might have been better served by a more cheerful opener, such as Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," followed by some microphone-free singing from Sykes. The amplification can wait until baseball season.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]