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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Alasdair Neale, conductor; Nathan Chan, cello

Cellist Nathan Chan

YOUTHFUL MUSIC AND VIRTUOSITY WELL SERVED IN MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by John Metz
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marin Symphony’s first concert of 2012 was on many levels a union of old and new. The symphony, as a musical genre, dates back to the 18th century, with the most notable examples being those of Mozart and Haydn. In the 19th Century its legacy was carried on by master symphonists Beethoven and Schubert, and later by Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak. But what about today? Is the symphony still alive today? And if so, which composers are champions of the 21st Century symphony?

If you attended the Jan. 31 concert at the Marin Center you know that Lowell Liebermann is one such composer. Conductor Alasdair Neale and his orchestra gave the West Coast premiere of Liebermann’s Symphony No. 3, op. 113, a single-movement work of about 20 minutes duration. Typically, symphonies are multi-movement works, and although Liebermann’s departs from this norm, the work’s form is clearly divided into three distinct sections.

The Symphony’s opening presents, in succession, three principle motives (a compositional technique Liszt first used in his genre-defying single-movement Piano Sonata). These three motives – a rising melody accompanied by descending whole tones, a disjointed chromatic melody, and a modal three-part chorale – comprise the basic thematic material of the symphony. They are developed in myriad ways, for example, as a waltz, and in the middle section as a blues melody and an octatonic jazz stride, and in the final section as a reflective sarabande. As one may infer, this symphony offers a wide range of stylistic variety, yet never loses its sense of organic unity.

The jazzy allegro middle section comes as a respite amid a work of turbulence, drama, deep sadness, and lost hope. The Symphony is filled with unresolved climaxes. I lost count of how many times a long, harrowing crescendo reached climax only to bottom out into a lingering silence.

The final section, which further develops the chorale theme, is contemplative and emotionally inward, ending in an unresolved recollection of the allegro, played by the flutes and percussion. Mr. Neale appropriately describes the ending as, “a musical question mark.” Perhaps the lack of resolution in his third symphony means we listeners can expect more Liebermann symphonies in the future. I certainly hope so.

The concert opened with a young Liebermann symphony and closed with an old Dvorak Symphony, the No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, popularly known as the “From The New World.” Framing the concert in symphonies, new and old, enabled the audience not only to hear an old familiar favorite, but to reflect upon the history and evolution of the form – what has brought us from the Czech composer’s forty-five-minute Romantic masterpiece to Liebermann’s more compact expression of darkness, irony, and lost hope. Yet a similar thread, as Mr. Neale noted, does extend throughout these symphonies. That is, just as Liebermann’s symphony offers stylistic variety ranging from blues to waltz, Dvorak incorporates an eclectic mix of influences into his own musical fabric. These influences include Native American music, African American spirituals, and Czech folk tunes from his homeland.

The conductor and the Marin orchestra gave successful renditions of both symphonies, which were met with enthusiastic applause, especially the “New World”. The horns, led by principal Darby Hinshaw, played particularly well in the first and fourth movements of the Dvorak. I was impressed with the elegant performance of English horn player Laura Reynolds.

The highlight of the evening was a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85, by 17-year-old Nathan Chan as the soloist. Mr. Chan is a very extroverted performer, who doesn’t just play the music, but shows it – intentionally or not – through dramatic gestures and facial expressions. Though his technical command of the instrument is good, his inner musicality and expressivity is what makes him a stand out instrumentalist. His performance of the elegiac opening melody was sincere and heartfelt. The Allegro molto may have been restrained in tempo, but the cellist instilled enough jollity and whimsy in his performance to make up for any lack of speed. He made the heartfelt and poignant melodies of the third movement sing. Mr. Chan plays with a rich and vibrant tone, though he often loses that richness in the upper register, which tends to sound frail. The fourth movement is an exciting dance-like tour de force, which revisits themes from the third and first movement.

A young cellist playing an old favorite. A 21st Century symphony and a 19th Century symphony. This concert truly was a union of young and old.