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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.