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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, November 17, 2012
Jovan Živkovíc, conductor. Stephen Waarts, violin

Jovan Zivkovic

NORTHERN LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHTLY

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 17, 2012

Programming an orchestra concert with Nordic music would seem to be simplicity itself: Grieg for romantic themes, Sibelius for instrumental virtuosity, Nielsen for a 20th-century harmonic component. The combination worked to perfection in the American Philharmonic Sonoma County’s Nov. 17 “Northern Lights” concert in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Auditorium.

Guest conductor Jovan Zivkovic kept a firm hand on the sonic proceedings, generating the same cogent and balanced sound heard when music director Norman Gamboa opened the season in October. Zivkovic used expansive tempos in the first piece, Grieg’s first suite from the Op. 46 incidental music to “Peer Gynt.” The “Morning” section featured richly hued clarinet playing from Ken Ward. The three soft and somber chords ending the “Death of Ase” segment were perfectly gauged, as was the pizzicato playing in the finale (the famous “Hall of the Mountain King”), beginning in the basses and joined by the horns and subsequently strings. It was not transparent playing, but there was good ensemble throughout.

The Sibelius Violin Concerto followed, with the APSC’s Young Artist Award winner Stephen Waarts as soloist. Long a staple in the standard repertoire, the concerto received a committed performance by Mr. Waarts. Occasionally he had trouble taking notes cleanly coming out of fast bass register passages, but his top notes were brilliantly played with sure-footed intonation. He was able to vary his vibrato as the music’s tempo changed, and the big trill in the first-movement cadenza grew with expression.

Mr. Zivkovic, a restrained conductor with precise but not extravagant stick movements, carefully controlled the shimmering slow movement. Mr. Waarts played the twice-repeated ascending passage soulfully, each time taking the repeat pianissimo. The concluding Allegro was full of scrappy orchestra playing, occasional intonation difficulties in the strings, and fast passage work for the soloist.

Perhaps due to the APSC getting used to the new hall, which this evening had an audience of 300, the soloist was often covered by the orchestra. They were simply too loud, notwithstanding the thematic projection from Mr. Waarts. Afterwards, the soloist offered an extended encore, Paganini’s C Minor Caprice, Op. 1, with copious multiple instrumental stops in difficult hand positions, and he played it adroitly.

Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, a 30-minute work of grand contrasts and great emotional impact, closed the program. Nichikas Xenelis's suave clarinet and the horn section began the first of two movements over a viola ostinato, the martial character continually reminding one of early Shostakovich. However, Nielsen’s work came four years before Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1. The menace and visceral nature of the music were kept in balance by the conductor. Percussionist Joe Lang was the persistent and obtrusive snare drummer throughout the first movement.

In the final Allegro, the music’s themes quietly and subtly appeared, leading to strong outbursts by the brass sections, and finally a surging fugal part beginning with the first violins, then violas and bassoonists Miranda Kincaid, Steve Peterson and Mary Ann Sacksteder. There were screeching bird call phrases from the winds, broken by bits of rhapsodic and even bucolic music. Emily Reynolds’ flute playing in the finale was outstanding and echoes of another contemporary of Nielsen, Bartok, appeared in the sonic mix. Good company.

The Nielsen symphony was the highlight of the concert, and it received an incisive and comprehensive interpretation under Mr. Zivkovic’s baton. For the next day’s performance, the audience reportedly doubled in size, nearly filling the hall. The word got around.