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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, January 31, 2013
Charles Dutoit, conductor. James Ehenes, violin

Conductor Charles Dutoit

LALO AND ELGAR WORKS HEARD IN SFS CONCERT IN WEILL

by Kenn Gartner
Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brilliant! That is the only word to convey the musicality, sound, and the panache the San Francisco Symphony achieved Jan. 31 in Weill Hall with of guest conductor Charles Dutoit. The sound extant during this balanced program was spectacular, and I have rarely heard such substantial fortes, ones which I had almost to cover my ears!

While the Hall’s Choral Circle’s seats were completely filled, the main section’s seats were half empty, a condition which allowed the Weill’s acoustics greater animation, despite the lowering the sound absorbing “window shades” along the walls.

Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole was first on the program. Often conductors run the movements together, but Mr. Dutoit spaced the parts with a short pause between. A descending four-note motif, which appears throughout, had a thoroughly menacing effect. Clearly much of the work, indeed, most of the work, had occurred during rehearsal, and the conductor simply reminded the orchestra through his manifold gestures what should be done. If ever an orchestral work could be characterized as an “orchestral concerto,” this Ravel masterpiece from 1907 should be so labeled.

Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 21, followed. Canadian violinist James Ehnes was soloist and may be the first to perform in Weill Hall on a Stradivarius! The San Francisco Symphony’s concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, plays a Guanerius. I was expecting a large sound from this violin but the high register did not to fill the hall as anticipated. This sonority increased a bit around the fifth section of the work, but the sound was not what one might expect from a violin of this caliber, and I must admit to some disappointment. Perhaps Mr. Ehnes put more emphasis into the performance at this moment, but for me, I had hoped for more. This violinist’s technique is masterful, and he faced every challenge in the score with aplomb, though the tone quality of the instrument did not match his or Weill Hall’s abilities. However, the audience stood, shouting bravos for quite a while, and produced large amount of applause. I too shouted bravo.

The final work on the program was Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36, known as “Enigma.” There are fourteen variations upon an original theme and were composed in 1899. Each variation is a musical portrait of a friend or close acquaintance, and some of these variations have become quite familiar to audiences around the world. The only orchestral section in the entire program with which the conductor was less than successful was his too straightforward interpretation of the Nimrod or ninth variation. While other conductors may treat this music with too much sentiment, Mr. Dutoit’s interpretation was too careful and routine. I have actually seen tears come to audience members’ eyes whenever this movement is performed, and the Santa Rosa Symphony played it recently in a memorial concert.

It is not a musical requirement that the audience be so moved, but the popular work might have been more satisfactory with a broader, more emotional musical performance.