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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.