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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
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 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.