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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 itís 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 Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís 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 Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonicís Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, April 27, 2013
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Jeffrey Kahane, conductor and piano

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

FULL CIRCLE FOR KAHANE

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, April 27, 2013

Since the conclusion of his decade-long tenure with the Santa Rosa Symphony in 2006, conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane has traveled widely, but he has often circled back to Sonoma County as a piano soloist. On Saturday evening, April 27, he upped the ante by not only bringing his prodigious keyboard talents back to the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, but also his own ensemble, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

A chamber orchestra in name only, LACO generates a powerful sound, which proved more than adequate for filling every nook and cranny of the GMC's nearly full Weill Hall. The orchestra includes almost every instrument found in a full-blown symphony, but with fewer players on a part, particularly in the strings. There are, for example, only four cellos and four violas. The reduced sections bring the total players to around 40, about half the number found in larger orchestras.

The loss of volume from fewer players is more than made up for by LACO's dexterity, unanimity and all-around great sound. Every member of the ensemble is a potential soloist. Indeed, in the brand-new "Music in Circles III" by contemporary composer Andrew Norman, each one got a chance to be an actual soloist, however briefly.

That piece began the second half of the program, after an informative introduction from Kahane, an inveterate proselytizer for modern music. As he explained, LACO had premiered the piece just the week before and had already played it several times, including a performance to an auditorium filled with grade-school children, who had listened with rapt attention.

As Kahane observed, "Music in Circles" is really about the act of listening. It begins in dead silence. In turn, the various instruments in the orchestra make short, expressive sounds. A violinist, for example, plays harmonics, whereas a violist bounces his bow off a string. Throughout this spare introduction, Kahane held out his fingers to count off the solos.

Gradually (and predictably), all the instruments joined in, creating a dense sound that hovered around a tonal center without going anywhere in particular. Kahane's metronomic arm motions became a major focus of the piece, as he kept everyone together in the intricate but evanescent cloud of noise. A long decrescendo ensued, giving the piece the familiar soft-loud-soft structure that can be summarized with two sideways Vs: <>.

Whatever the merits of "Music in Circles," the performance was beguiling. With one possible exception, the musicians played their solos with aplomb, and the texture of the sound seemed to pull the audience in--perhaps not as completely as the grade schoolers, but close enough.

Earlier in the evening, the concert began at the other end of the musical timescale with a captivating, Kahane-less performance of Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 11. Led by concertmistress Margaret Batjer, a scaled-down ensemble of about a dozen standing violin, viola and bass players--along with two seated cellists and a harpsichordist--zipped through the Baroque master's charming reworking of one his own organ concertos.

Batjer immediately established herself as a solid player with shimmering technique and authoritative bowing. Although her body movements were restrained, she brought the entire ensemble along with her: every eye within sight was glued to her bow. The five-movement concerto really caught fire in the concluding Allegro, propelled by a series of calls and responses from soloist to orchestra.

Afterward, Kahane and a lidless Steinway emerged from the wings to perform Mozart's beloved Piano Concerto No. 22. The orchestra--which now included a fuller complement of strings, winds and timpani--arranged itself around the piano. The keyboard faced the audience but was soon obscured by the seated Kahane, who rose to conduct whenever he wasn't playing.

The performance was everything one would expect from Kahane: fluid, virtuosic, lyrical, transcendent. The piano sound meshed well with the orchestra, floating above the stage rather than projecting outward. Kahane's own cadenza to the first movement was particularly memorable. Taking the liberty of a cadenza at face value, Kahane brought the timpanist into his improvisations, the drums offering a surprisingly effective restatement of the main theme.

As almost always in Mozart, the slow movement was the most endearing, nowhere more so here than in the various woodwind duets. The dark, almost tragic, mood stood in stark contrast to the outer movements. In the concluding Rondo, it was hard to believe that Kahane could play so quickly. His trills were relentless and his fingers a blur, but the phrasing was nonetheless exquisite. The standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

Another well-deserved ovation arrived at the end of the program, after Ginastera's "Variaciones concertantes," a heartfelt set of variations on Argentine themes. Composed in 1953, the piece has worn well over the last 60 years, a testament to the solidity of its melodies and the rewards of its structure.

"Variaciones concertantes" consists of a series of 11 mini-concertos for various instruments in the orchestra, followed by a rousing finale. It opens with a soulful duet between harp and cello, which spends almost all its time in the upper registers. The soloists here and throughout the piece were superb, but the real standout was violist Victoria Miskolczy, who made the most of her "Variacion dramatica" by producing a full-bodied sound of searing intensity.

In the end, the concert offered further proof--as if any were needed--of Kahane's stature as both performer and conductor. One can only hope that not too much time will pass before he circles back again to his musical home.