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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, February 11, 2012
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Darby Hinshaw, horn

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.