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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Hornist Darby Hinshaw

HORN OF PLENTY

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 11, 2012

After a lifetime of concert going, I have to confess that I’ve never witnessed a French horn concerto in the flesh, although I’ve heard plenty of recordings by Barry Tuckwell and other French horn virtuosi. My normal experience of French horns is to observe them sitting in the back of the orchestra, occasionally tooting away. It was thus something of a revelation to see French hornist Darby Hinshaw, an erstwhile member of the Santa Rosa Symphony, stride before that ensemble last Saturday night and station himself in the soloist’s perch for the Mozart Horn Concerto in E Flat, K. 417.

Mr. Hinshaw is a solidly built musician, and he wasted no time in demonstrating that he knows how to play his instrument. With his right hand firmly ensconced in the bell and his left manipulating the valves, he emitted a pure and ringing tone. He seemed to be playing with his right hand as much as his left, although the machinations of the former were hidden from view. On occasion he extracted his hand from the bell and twirled the horn to expel the accumulated spit, like a gunslinger showing off his revolvers.

As with all his other concertos for diverse instruments, Mozart’s writing for the French horn is particularly sympathetic, zeroing in on the instrument’s intrinsic capabilities and essential sound, which is by turns elegiac, heraldic and wistful. Mr. Hinshaw brought all these qualities to bear in the Andante second movement, where he played the main theme with great expressivity and pitch-perfect accuracy. The closing bars were especially evocative, suggesting the sound of a horn echoing across an Alpine valley.

The opening and closing movements were sprightly and filled with endearing melodies, although the lack of a cadenza in the first didn’t give Mr. Hinshaw much chance to display his gifts. The last movement, set in rapid 6/8 time, suggests nothing so much as a hunt, and here again the artist played flawlessly, although at times he seemed constrained. The applause at the end was vigorous and well deserved.

Hinshaw wasn’t actually the first soloist of the evening. That spot went to a computer-driven “synthesis engine” in the back of the auditorium that interacted with the orchestra in the opening piece, “Hold That Thought,” by Berkeley composer Edmund Campion, who was in attendance. The machine’s sonic contributions arrived via speakers above the orchestra, which consisted only of strings.

“Hold That Thought” is the kind of music you might hear in a planetarium while pretending you’re on a spaceship headed into a distant galaxy, preferably through a time warp. Clouds of sound envelop you, beginning with a high sustained pianissimo in the strings. All at once, the air conditioner kicks on--or is that the synthesizer? It was hard to tell at first, but then it became clear that the device was emitting sounds that echoed the strings, at least in the machine’s own digital conception of the world.

The misty atmosphere continued, with the orchestra essentially playing sustained chords, either loud or soft, and the synthesizer offering its two cents worth whenever occasion permitted. While the quality of the sound was sometimes of interest, the structure of the piece was not. There seemed to be no forward movement, no development--just clouds of sound. As suggested by the title, it was best to put thought on hold and just accept the experience for what it was.

In contrast to the opening piece, cascades of thoughts were on display in the second half of the program, devoted entirely to Tchaikovsky’s E Minor Fifth Symphony, Op. 64. This is a work filled with contrasts and clashes of musical ideas. From the somber tones of the clarinets at the beginning to the no-holds-barred climaxes at the end, the symphony seems to trace the course of a mind in ferment, often uncertain of how to proceed.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth offers a compelling script, but it requires a convincing performance. While the Santa Rosans, under conductor Bruno Ferrandis, certainly played all the notes, they fluctuated between full engagement with the work and mere recitation. Certain passages were exquisite, such as the famous horn solo in the second movement (played here by Mr. Hinshaw) and the lilting waltz of the third, but others were routine. Dynamic contrasts were few, and tempos were often sluggish.

Fortunately, both conductor and musicians rallied in the final movement, investing energy and insight into Tchaikovsky’s score. The notes seemed to lift off the page, finally igniting the work with a previously flickering spark of life.