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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, February 05, 2012
Evan Craves, conductor;
Elena Ulyanova, piano

CRAVES DISPATCHES FLASHY PIECES IN EXCITING APSC CONCERT AT WELLS

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sonoma County’s insouciant American Philharmonic opened the first of its three spring concerts Feb. 5 with the Corsair Overture of Berlioz, and the work characterized the entire afternoon in the Wells Fargo Center – loud, flashy, trenchant and exciting.

Music Director candidate Evan Craves, formerly the APSC’s concertmaster, conducted largely without score, rare today and especially given the works at hand. It was even rare in the past, though Von Bulow conducted Tristan, Meistersinger and all the Beethoven Symphonies without music, as well and then playing the cycle of Beethoven Piano Sonatas. But now a conductor’s score is usually needed, and Mr. Craves looked at one only during the short Mahler work which appeared second on the program. The Berlioz was given quick a ride of just over nine minutes, the strings playing presto phrases and finally finding their unison footing well into the piece. The full brass section sounded triumphant. Here, and in the program’s final work, Miranda Kincaid’s bassoon playing was exemplary.

A sea change in sound occurred with the following Adagietto movement from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. A signature piece for Santa Rosa Symphony conductor Corrick Brown in Wells, Mr. Craves’ languorous conception played off the beguiling notes from the harp with rich lower string playing, eliciting a broad vibrato and a shimmering sound. The hall was breathlessly quiet.

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 34, concluded the first half with pianist Elena Ulyanova as soloist. The artist has been heard locally before in recitals for Concerts Grand and Robert Hayden’s Oakmont Concerts, and her playing in the lush set of 24 variations was similar to that of past appearances – highly dramatic and underscoring top treble notes and clearly articulating scale passages. Percussive sforzandos abound in Ms. Ulyanova’s conceptions, grabbing a listener’s attention but ultimately sounding affected. The pianist has a lovely pianissimo touch but at times at the quietest levels left-hand notes failed to sound. Perhaps the adage that one can’t play a real pianissimo in a large hall applies. The venerable 18th Variation in D Major (andante cantabile) was surprisingly played simply and with sparse ritards at the two climaxes. Ensemble with Mr. Craves was good.

To the applause of 800 Ms. Ulyanova added an encore, Scarlatti’s Sonata in B, K. 377, with driving momentum and a dry detache touch.

Kurt Erickson’s Toccata for Orchestra opened the second half, Mr. Craves holding the segmented piece together with thematic sections being traded off between strings, brass and winds. The Philharmonic made the best of the minimalist riffs, off-beat accents and entrances. Debra Ortega played the prominent piccolo part and the composer came to the stage to acknowledge the ovation.

A riot of scintillating orchestral sound came with the complete music from Falla’s 1919 ballet El Sombrero de Tres Picos, closing the program with much of the best playing of the afternoon. Again shunning a score, remarkable as the piece has manifold short sections, Mr. Craves drew an intoxicating blend of sonority from the APSC. Outstanding soloists included soprano Jody Benecke in two Flamenco-tinged arias, Nicholas Xenelis' limpid clarinet artistry, tympanist Gabe Sakakeeny, hornist Eric Anderson and Suzanne Eraldi's English horn. The music is crammed with startling effects, ranging from hand claps and raucous castanets to long Andalusian lines in the brass, and the suite sounded shorter than the 24 minutes of playing time, due to the conductor’s diligent control of his resonant musicians.

There was subtlety in the sonic commotion, typical of the entire afternoon’s performance.