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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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 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.