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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
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.