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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 it’s 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 Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s 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 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s 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 Rossini’s “William Tell” 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 Philharmonic’s 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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Monday, May 14, 2012
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Jean Ferrandis, flute

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.