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HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Jean Ferrandis

AU REVOIR WELLS, BONJOUR GREEN

by Steve Osborn
Monday, May 14, 2012

The Santa Rosa Symphony bid adieu to the much-maligned Wells Fargo Center on May 14 with a mostly French program that showcased the talents of its French conductor, Bruno Ferrandis, and his equally French younger brother, the flute soloist Jean Ferrandis. This Castor and Pollux of the musical firmament shone brightly on the full house, which rewarded their luminescence with repeated standing ovations.

The evening began with some obligatory thank yous from executive director Alan Silow to Symphony musicians, sponsors, ushers and other staff for the past 30 years of music-making at the church-turned-auditorium on Santa Rosa’s north side. Despite its many acoustical defects, Wells does have a certain charm, and the transition to the much-vaunted Green Music Center in Rohnert Park seems certain to bring a few regrets.

After some more preliminaries, the program began in earnest with a tentative performance of Debussy’s ballet “Jeux” (Games), a somewhat obscure effort that is no match for the composer’s far more celebrated ballet, “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” The plot here involves a man, two women, a tennis court and a series of tennis balls whose bouncing punctuates the humans’ increasingly erotic encounters.

Imagining this plot unfolding on the stage was a bit of a challenge, as the music seemed mostly to float on a sea of Impressionist stasis. Maestro Ferrandis coaxed ethereal chords out of the various orchestra sections, and the sound was well controlled, but forward momentum was lacking. Instead of evoking a tennis game, the music behaved more like a soundtrack for a cartoon about pixies hovering above water lilies, their wands occasionally emitting clouds of fairy dust.

The forward momentum arrived in the next piece, Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2, ably played by Ferrandis No. 2, a virtuoso whose career began at roughly the same time the Symphony moved into Wells. Ferrandis the younger has a purity of tone and a dynamic range that is well suited to Mozart, who bids the flute to act more like an opera singer than a woodwind player. The first movement, with its soaring melody, is like one long aria culminating in an expressive cadenza. The fleet-fingered Ferrandis tossed off all the many runs with ease, revealing the underlying beauty.

In the ensuing Adagio, the younger Ferrandis sustained notes to the max, pushing the flute’s expressive potential. He played as quietly as possible, commanding undivided attention. The concluding Rondo was pure romp, with Ferrandis the soloist playing at warp speed and Ferrandis the conductor providing unexpected ritards and strong phrasing from the compliant orchestra. The standing ovation found the brothers arm in arm.

More ovations arrived after intermission. The first was for the rarely performed “Concerto for Flute and Orchestra” by the 20th century French composer Jacques Ibert. Ferrandis No. 2 again did the honors, this time clad in a white shirt rather than a dark jacket. Playing from score, he took off briskly and never let up. The concerto has much in common with the famous flute sonata by Ibert’s contemporary, Francis Poulenc. The music is happy, festive and carefree, filled with the bustle of Parisian life during the 1930s. The third movement, an Allegro scherzando, is the most striking, with virtuoso passages alternating repeatedly with languid interludes. At times, Ferrandis’ playing drew gasps from the audience, as he skittered nimbly from one end of his instrument to the other.

The concert concluded with an impassioned reading of Ravel’s “La Valse,” one of music’s great demonic masterworks. From the sinister beginning to the shattering finale, maestro Ferrandis and the orchestra’s many skilled players evoked all the darker aspects of the French composer’s homage to the decaying Austrian empire. The three-four beat was persistent and inexorable, solid from the first measure to the last.

“La Valse” is set in Vienna, but it plays well in Santa Rosa, a town whose musical signature--the “Merry Widow” waltz--was immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock in “Shadow of a Doubt.” Waltzes are forever nostalgic, evoking a distant or more recent past. For the Santa Rosa Symphony and the Wells Fargo Center, the 30-year dance is over. A new partner for the Symphony is waiting in the wings.