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Choral and Vocal
SOMBER GERMAN POETRY IN SONG AT ROSCHMANN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Two weeks does make a hefty difference. Feb. 3 saw the diva Renée Fleming beguile a full Weill Hall house in a mix of Brahms, Broadway show songs and Dvorak chestnuts. It was a gala event with couture gowns and colorful extra-musical communication between singer and her rapt audience. Dorothea Rösc...
Chamber
NOVEL AND FAMILIAR WORKS FROM THE TILDEN TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 11, 2018
North Coast chamber music fans have the luxury of two fine resident piano trios, with the frequently performing Trio Navarro at Sonoma State, and the Tilden Trio at San Rafael’s Dominican University. The Tilden plays less often, but their Feb. 11 performance brought several hundred to Angelico Hall ...
Symphony
A FIFTH CONTENDER ENTERS THE RING FOR THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 10, 2018
In these international times, what makes a piece of music American? For Michael Christie, the answer is that it needs to have at least premiered on these shores, if not been composed here. Thus the rationale for the “all American” program that Christie--the fifth and final conducting candidate for t...
Recital
HAUNTING RACHMANINOFF WORKS IN HU'S MAO RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 08, 2018
Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different. All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressiv...
Chamber
A COMPLETE ARTISTIC PACKAGE IN FLEMING'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Vaida Falconbridge and Mary Beard
Saturday, February 03, 2018
The diva Renée Fleming strode on the Weill Hall stage Feb. 2 in her first couture gown of the evening, a gray and swirling cream strapless sheath with flamboyant coordinating stole. For this concert, Ms. Fleming stayed to somewhat lighter fare, foregoing heavier dramatic and coloratura arias for a v...
Recital
ZNAIDER-KULEK DUO CHARMS AND CHALLANGES WEILL AUDIENCE FEB. 2
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 02, 2018
Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlsson’s titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Lang’s two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013. But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts g...
Chamber
VIVID GERMAN ROMANTICISM IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Though not new to Sonoma County, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) concerts are relatively recent in the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall. So the first of three spring concerts Jan. 27 provided a picture of what’s in the repertoire leading up to their Festival this summer at Sonoma’s Ha...
Symphony
MONUMENTAL NIELSEN SYMPHONY CAPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT AT SR HS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Turning again away from conventional repertoire, the Sonoma County Philharmonic programmed Jan. 27 three works in what were local debut performances in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Op. 29, called “Inextinguishable,” closed the program with an extravaga...
Chamber
ECLECTIC ANDERSON & ROE TRANSCRIPTIONS CAPTIVATE WEILL HALL AUDIENCE
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, January 21, 2018
From the first moment when Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe walked Jan. 21 on the Weill Hall stage and spoke to the audience about their two-piano program, it was clear that an afternoon of drama, humor, virtuosity, warmth, transcendence and excitement was in store. This dynamic and mesmerizing ...
Chamber
BALCOM TRIO HIGHLIGHTS DELPHI'S RAC CONCERT IN OCCIDENTAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, January 20, 2018
The Redwood Arts Council audience first met the Delphi Trio (Jeffrey LaDeur, (piano), Liana Berube (violin), and cellist Michelle Kwon) in 2013, and subsequent concerts in the same Occidental hall have become crowd favorites. The January 20th program before a capacity audience seemed to have enthus...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, October 06, 2012
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Kronos Quartet

Conductor Bruno Ferrandis

SR SYMPHONY REVS UP SEASON WITH POWERFUL OPENER

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 06, 2012

For the Santa Rosa Symphony’s first-ever subscription concert in the Green Music Center Oct. 6, Bruno Ferrandis chose three works with the potential to show off the center’s vaunted acoustics. All three--Mozart’s overture to “The Magic Flute,” Mahler’s first symphony, and a world premiere by composer-in-residence Edmund Campion--feature brass and percussion, along with a dynamic range that starts below pianissimo and builds to triple forte.

By and large, the acoustics matched the promise. The Mahler in particular evolved into a tremendous sonic display, and the Mozart was not far behind. The exception was the new piece, “The Last Internal Combustion Engine,” in which the manifold orchestral exertions managed to drown out the amplified soloists, the cutting-edge Kronos String Quartet. Or at least that’s how it sounded from my seat in the Choral Circle behind the stage.

“Combustion,” as the piece may some day be known, combines electronic and acoustic instruments in an uneasy mixture that gives hints of the combustible without fully igniting. The first indication of the clash of old and new was on the stage itself, where a tangle of wires hung from the otherwise traditional semicircle of chairs for the soloists. Some of these wires connected to headphones that the first and second violinists donned upon entering the stage. Others presumably linked to a computer and keyboard manned by the orchestra’s pianist, Kymry Esainko, back in the percussion section.

The piece began with the quiet sound of wood blocks tapped in an insistent rhythm. After a brief electronic flurry, the strings got into the act, with the players hitting their strings with the backs of their bows, an ancient technique known as “col legno.” Other instruments gradually joined in, but the emphasis throughout was on forward-moving percussive sounds, with Mr. Ferrandis giving a strong cut-time beat: one and two and one and two. Given the title and the obvious sonic comparisons to an engine, the effect was of a car surging down a lonely highway late at night, its headlights illuminating an eerie landscape.

At some point the Kronos entered the fray, but they were hard to hear above the roaring engine, despite their amplification. They finally came to the fore in a quieter section, but by then they seemed like an afterthought. It was hard to know where they fit into the scheme. Were they parts of the engine or simply passengers?

The concluding moments were the most memorable, as the various sections of the orchestra stopped playing their instruments and began waving toy cars in the air. After a while, the only sound to be heard was the spinning of little wheels, propelled not by combustion but rather by hand.

Gustav Mahler was born too long ago (1860) to play with toy cars as a child, but his first symphony, also known as “The Titan,” contains many child-like melodies in its evocations of landscape and village life. The most obvious occur in the second movement, with its peasant dance, and the third, with its famous minor-key rendition of “Frere Jacques.” The symphony itself, however, grows far beyond the child-like, combining those melodies with far more adult ones to create one of the great masterpieces of the repertoire.

Playing “The Titan” is a daunting prospect, but Ferrandis and Co. were mostly up to the task. The hushed beginning with its seven octaves of A demonstrated that the Green can handle quietude as well as amplitude. The offstage trumpets were effective, and the long crescendo was well controlled. Mr. Ferrandis’ tempo, however, was a bit slow, and the many French horns (eight by my count) were sometimes uneven.

Similar problems plagued the second movement. The tempo was again too deliberate, and now it was the trumpets’ turn to sound ragged. But the cellos, who begin the movement with a lively dance step, sounded terrific. The ubiquitous wood in the hall really seems to resonate with the lower strings, a situation that will undoubtedly improve as the auditorium wood ages and hardens.

The third movement began with an excellent bass solo, followed by the various melodic snippets that evoke both the funereal and the playful. Uniting all these disparate strands is hard work, but the orchestra met the challenge and carried their success forward into the riveting final movement. The playing here was truly moving, particularly from the strings, who played with spot-on intonation and deep expressivity. As the movement roared towards its conclusion, the clarinets leaned back in their chairs, projecting their instruments skyward. The French horns soon followed suit, standing up to deliver the final triumphant melody, this time in perfect coordination. The sustained applause for both orchestra and conductor was well deserved.

The concert, which concluded with “The Titan,” began with another bit of magic, the overture to “The Magic Flute.” Here the horns rang out at the beginning with a full-bodied, tangible sound that set the stage for the rest of the concert. The string entry, by contrast, was delicate and well controlled. Mr. Ferrandis conducted the overture with restraint, his hands rarely venturing above shoulder height. As with the Mahler, the tempo was deliberate, but the unanimity of the playing compensated for the lack of speed.