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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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.