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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 itís 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 Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís 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 Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís 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 Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ 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 Philharmonicís 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
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, April 01, 2012
John Kendall Bailey, conductor. Solenn Seguillon, violin

Violinist Solenn Segullion

SYMPHONIC CONNECTIONS EXPLORED IN APRIL 1 AMERICAN PHIL CONCERT

by Peter Jaret
Sunday, April 01, 2012

It's no easy task to open an orchestral concert with Brahms Symphony No. 1. The work begins as if in midstream, at an emotional pitch many symphonies take a movement or more to reach, and Brahms composed the introduction after the bulk of his symphony was written, which may explain why it sounds less like an introduction than an elaboration.

On April 1 at the Wells Fargo Center the American Philharmonic Sonoma County was in full command from the first bars of the urgently pulsing, emotionally-charged introduction which features a rising theme from the strings contrasted by a falling woodwind theme, set against the steady monotonic drumbeat of timpani. The exceptionally fine ensemble playing of the woodwind section was graced by oboist Chris Krive, who conveyed Brahms' lines with unusual sweetness. Violinist Linda Welter led a string section that has never sounded better, playing with great sensitivity and dynamic range.

At times during the first movement the timpani threatened to overpower the rest of the orchestra, particularly the relatively small string section. But the balance soon righted itself, and the orchestra captured the elaborate counterpoint, tricky polyrhythms, and quicksilver thematic changes of this monumental work with great authority. The horns, such an essential part of Brahms' orchestration, were strong and sonorous, both in their ensemble playing and in solo passages. The composer required the trombonists to sit out the first three movements. It was worth the wait when their clarion call sounded the Beethoven-inspired theme of the final movement.

Each of the orchestra's five concerts this season highlights a different conductor, all of them finalists for the position of music director to replace outgoing Gabriel Sakakeeny. For this fourth concert of the season John Kendall Bailey took the podium. At moments his conducting style looked distractingly like interpretative dance, responding to rather than leading the group. And there were passages during the Brahms when the complex crosscurrents of the piece became briefly muddled. But he also coaxed thrilling moments of beauty from the orchestra, especially during the third movement, with its joyous trio section featuring flute, oboe and bassoon. And while remarks by conductors are usually best kept to an absolute minimum, Bailey's prefatory descriptions of the pieces were helpful, especially to guide new listeners.

The second half opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams' resplendent The Lark Ascending, featuring violinist Solenn Seguillon in her second solo appearance with American Philharmonic. Sequillon held the audience rapt as she unfurled the lush, rising lines of the lark's theme with exquisite grace and power. Even in the highest register, her tone was warm and musical. There were moments when the audience seemed to be barely breathing, the hall was so quiet. The piece features intimate conversations between the solo violin and several instrumentalists, including French horn, oboe, bassoon, flute and clarinet. All of the players performed with sensitivity and agility.

The final work on the program, Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, neatly echoed what came before. Strauss' tone poem, which conveys the final hours of a man's life and the transfiguration of his soul, begins with a pulsing beat reminiscent of the opening of Brahms' first symphony. The lush rising melodic lines of the final section, depicting the transfiguration of his soul, call to mind Williams' ascending lark. The orchestra performed with deep feeling, dramatically contrasting the agitated and rhythmically complex passages that depict pain and fear with the tranquil sections conveying recollections of happier times. Death is signaled by a tam-tam, played with admirable restraint by percussionist Mary Gillespie-Greenberg, making the moment all the more moving.

The orchestra offered up its most impressive ensemble playing for the final moments of the piece, fully conveying the majestic sense of mystery that pervades Strauss' musical rendering of the progress of the soul.

After the poignantly hushed conclusion, there was a long moment of silence, followed by tumultuous and sustained applause.