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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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, January 22, 2012
Jeffrey Kahane, conductor and piano.

Conductor/Pianist Jeffrey Kahane

KAHANE’S TRIUMPHAL RETURN TO SANTA ROSA

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 22, 2012

On a day when several uncontrollable elements--lousy weather, football playoffs, hospital construction--conspired against them, guest conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane and the Santa Rosa Symphony packed the Wells Fargo Center by excelling at the one element firmly under their control: great music making. Kahane in particular had a fantastic day, returning in triumph to the orchestra he led for a decade, playing his heart out for a Mozart concerto, and reconnecting with musicians who clearly enjoy working with him.

The concert began with the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25, with Kahane conducting from the keyboard. The piano, sans lid, was centered between the violins and the lower strings, with the keyboard parallel to the front of the stage. From his position at the ivories, Kahane could make eye contact with every member of the reduced orchestra, which featured a small complement of strings, one flute, one timpanist, and pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets.

Kahane stood to conduct the opening of the first movement without benefit of baton or score. He used both arms energetically and coaxed a crisp and flawless sound from the attentive players. Sitting at the piano when his turn came to play, he continued to conduct with his head and sometimes with whatever hand happened to be free. Even as he navigated the trickiest passages, he gazed steadily at the orchestra, communicating via arched eyebrows, stern visages and occasional smiles.

Kahane is a wonderfully expressive pianist who articulates each phrase with the utmost precision. His hands are a marvel to watch, seeming to be utterly relaxed while sprinting up and down the keys with nary a missed step. His playing during the cadenza, which he wrote himself, was particularly enchanting. Here he embellished upon the theme, mixing elaborate ornaments with some unexpected dissonances, ultimately sounding a bit like Beethoven as he drove to the conclusion.

Where the first movement was dazzling, the second was all expression, one of those ineffable Mozart Andantes that seems to float on a cloud. The melodic line here is paramount, and both orchestra and pianist played it to the hilt, each note fully sustained and leading into the next.

The last movement, an infectious Rondo, began at a brisk pace and never let up. Kahane traded solos with the flute and principal cellist and then led the orchestra in an extended romp to the finish line. The ovation was immediate, with many loud cheers mixed in.

During his tenure with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Kahane made a point of championing certain 20th-century composers, such as Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tippett, whose place in the classical repertoire is open to debate. Despite his frequently performed piano concertos, Sergei Rachmaninoff is still a member of that club, so the appearance of his third symphony after intermission was something of a rarity. When musicians refer to “Rach 3,” they mean the piano concerto, not the symphony.

There’s little danger that the symphonic “Rach 3” will displace the pianistic one, but the symphony does have its merits, albeit few. The first movement begins promisingly with a Russian-sounding theme from the clarinets, but it shortly morphs into a lushly orchestrated haze, with one melodic idea drifting into another, like a luxury liner lost in the fog. Any development or compelling narrative is hard to discern.

The second movement begins in much the same way, but the structure here is more clearly defined, especially when the opening Adagio is displaced by a spirited Allegro vivace. Kahane kept the orchestra moving along during this section, eliciting great playing from the strings and a remarkable solo from the English horn.

After a festive beginning, the third movement settles into a fugue that displays Rachmaninoff’s gifts for orchestration. Seemingly everyone gets involved in the increasingly manic action, which is regularly interrupted by languid interludes. The playing was excellent throughout, and the frenetic ending verged on the spine-tingling.

The audience applauded vigorously, so much so that Kahane launched the players into a rare orchestral encore, in this case Johann Strauss’s “Fledermaus” overture. The haze of the Rachmaninoff was quickly displaced by the crystalline clarity of the Waltz King’s exquisite melodies and toe-tapping rhythms. Both Kahane and the musicians outdid themselves with a finely honed rendition that included several perfectly executed ritards and accelerandos, along with some dazzling solos, notably the lightning quick piccolo figure at the end.

Santa Rosa was very lucky to have a conductor of Kahane’s stature in the not-so-distant past, and it can only be hoped that he’ll be able to guest conduct on a regular basis in future seasons. He still resides in Santa Rosa, and his fans are many.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]