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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, February 23, 2013

Norman Gamboa

RUSSIAN ROMANTIC WORKS HIGHLIGHT APSC CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2013

Luxurious orchestration has always been a hallmark of Russian symphonic music, as was evident in the works of Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich performed by the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) at the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Hall on Feb. 23.

Guest conductor Mark Wardlaw led a novel work to begin the concert, Liadov’s "Eight Russian Folk Songs," Op. 58. This well-balanced suite from 1906 showcased many sections of the orchestra, with bassoonist Steve Peterson and principal cellist Margaret Moores giving extended solos. Mr. Wardlaw carefully matched the string sections in the third folk song, "Plaintive," where the theme was successively handed from the cellos to the first violins and finally to the second violins and basses. The fifth song, "Legend of the Birds," was taken as a sad lament, with the strings playing an eerie shimmer at the end. The performance made these abbreviated and pithy songs sound greater than the sum of their parts.

Closing the first half was Tchaikovsky’s charming "Rococo Variations for Cello and Orchestra," Op. 33, with Ann Suda playing the solo part. Working with a reduced ensemble, Mr. Wardlaw helped craft a rich sonic tapestry for the cellist in this Mozartian work from 1877. The hall, at least from the lower orchestral seats, seems to favor low frequencies, and Ms. Suda’s instrument projected with substantial resonance. Early in the work her tone at the top had a dry edge, but it broadened throughout the rest of the seven variations. The delightful top-to-bottom slides on the fingerboard were impeccable, and in the cadenza Ms. Suda never hurried, letting the long pauses add suspense to the music. She clearly identified with the subtle and non-heroic interplay of cello and orchestra.

During the Tchaikovsky, Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds played a scintillating flute duet, and hornist Randall Masselink performed chaste solo parts. In the fast finale with swirling, almost breakneck, interplay between cello and orchestra, Mr. Wardlaw kept the musicians from running off the rails, and the applause from 600 in the hall was long and loud.

Following intermission, Shostakovich’s effervescent E-Flat Major Ninth Symphony, Op. 70, completed the program. There was a time when a Shostakovich symphony would have been a tough challenge for the APSC because the orchestra lacked instrumental depth in the high strings and winds. That has changed.

Mr. Wardlaw introduced the Shostakovich symphony with a verbal description of the work’s genesis and the situation in the Soviet Union at the end of the "Great Patriotic War." All through the performance, the orchestra executed the familiar Shostakovich sonic landmarks: virtuoso wind playing, brilliant string sonics in the highest range, banal themes resolving into cogent and stirring marches, and always masterful orchestration. In the Moderato, the clarinet and oboe solos by Nicholas Xenelis and Chris Krive, respectively, were opulent. Described by the conductor as a horse race, the Presto movement was exciting and everywhere under control. Tom Hyde’s trumpet solo was beautiful, as was Ms. Reynolds's sparkling piccolo work.

Mr. Wardlaw highlighted Shostakovich's commanding sense of orchestral color and dynamics, and the performance brought the audience to its feet after the roaring finale. It was lighter than usual Shostakovich, but no less impressive. With this third concert in its new home, the APSC has developed a warm familiarity with the solid acoustics of the refurbished auditorium.