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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
San Francisco Symphony / Thursday, December 06, 2012
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor. Yefim Bronfman, piano

Violinist and Composer Mark Volkert

PANDORA A BOX OF SONIC DELIGHTS AT FIRST SF SYMPHONY CONCERT IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 06, 2012

In what must be the fall season’s last blockbuster Green Music Center concert, the San Francisco Symphony played a long awaited program Dec. 6 to an almost full Weill Hall audience.There was a palpable excitement when concertmaster Alexander Barantchik and then conductor Michael Tilson Thomas entered and happily acknowledged loud applause from the assembly and standing orchestra members.

The first half was extraordinary, a champagne orgy of orchestral sound that began with Strauss’ early Op. 28 tone poem Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. String attacks and releases were impeccable and the violins and violas had a deep cohesive sound, playing off the wonderful horn parts. The trombones were brassy and sounded as one. Mr. Barantschik’s solo passages, including a delicious long descending scale midway in the boisterous composition, were virtuosic. William Bennett’s oboe playing was soulful and gracefully imitated a languorous human voice.

Mr. Thomas’ control of the interplay of instrumental sections, especially at low volume levels, was masterful.

Associate Concertmaster Mark Volkert stepped into the composer’s role before the halftime break as his orchestra played Pandora, an amazing twenty-three minute display piece for strings alone. The world premiere was the previous evening. Mr. Thomas provided introductory remarks for the work’s mythological origins and the Symphony launched into a mysterious introductory section of high violin sound. Solo passages were subsequently handed around, beginning with elegant playing by bassist Scott Pingel, cellist Peter Wyrick and ultimately an enchanting duo from Mr. Barantschik and stand partner Jeremy Constant. The conductor was able to balance the two lyrical sections and impetuous outbursts to telling effect. It was a brilliant antidote to the opulent harmonies of Strauss’ Til.

During this vehement but never violent piece the composer inserted intriguing effects, making a violin chirp like a flute and a horn part to resemble, albeit for a just moment, percussion sounds. Overall, there is an underlying menace to the writing and just a hint of Bartok’s pungent rhythms and Shostakovich’s sarcasm. The solo violin cadenza was deftly dispatched by Mr. Barantschik and another string duo, played by Mr. Wyrick and cellist Amos Yang, was beguiling.

Mr. Volkert is clearly a sovereign writer for strings and the performance was for me the evening’s highlight. Though long for a modern all-string composition, it merits joining the Orchestra’s repertoire.

Following intermission pianist Yefim Bronfman played Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto in E Flat, Op. 73. Known as the “Emperor” Concerto, the work abounds in mighty statements for soloist and orchestra and the music throughout commands a visceral potency. Mr. Bronfman gave a curious reading, patrician in concept but devoid of majesty or interest. His scales rippled and his fingers were faultless, but the phrasing was constantly square and heroics, inner voices and left-hand dynamic power were absent. It was irritatingly conventional, monochromatic and careful throughout.

The Orchestra played the concerto well in a low-voltage way, matching their sound to the soloist’s restrained interpretation. A standing ovation ensued.