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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 13, 2013
Music Festival Orchestra, Daniel Pollack, conductor. James D'Leon, piano

Concertmaster Roy Malan (l) with Alan Pollack and James D'León July 13

MUSCULAR MUSIC OPENS MENDO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 13, 2013

Programming the opening concert for the 27th Mendocino Music Festival is not a daunting task, but it’s one that should play to the strengths of the orchestra and the audience. No Schnittke or Elliott Carter in the mix. Conductor Alan Pollack deftly chose rousing and accessible works for the July 13 event before a boisterous full house in the massive white tent on the coast bluff.

Verdi’s overture to the opera “I Vespri Siciliani” launched the 23-concert Festival in a pungent performance that Mr. Pollack crafted with large sonic contrasts and an emphasis on the Italian flavor of the piece. From my stage right seat the brass and low strings dominated the violins and winds, and the conductor pushed the tempos and momentum to an exciting conclusion. There was only a nod here and there to phrase ritards and soft passages, and the large 70-person orchestra responded adroitly to Mr. Pollack’s animated baton and desire for a big sound.

Sonic splendor had continued emphasis with Prokofiev’s First Suite, Op. 64bis, from the mid 1930s ballet Romero and Juliet. In seven parts, the Suite is pure program music and audience appreciation could have been enhanced by a printed description of each section (the program incorrectly listed another Prokofiev ballet Suite). The symphonic balance was improved by a seat change to the middle of row three, and now the strings could not only be seen but heard. However there was little change from the Verdi in Mr. Pollack’s conception of the evocative Prokofiev score. It was a big-boned reading throughout, beginning with a dreamy and loud “Folk Ball” and ending with a sultry and sarcastic dance swelling to a romantic swirl in “Death of Tybalt.”

Along the way were lovely instrumental moments: clarinetist Arthur Austin and Carolyn Lockhart’s (bassoon) solos in ”Street Awakens”; flutist Mindy Rosenfeld and piccolo player Kathleen Reynolds in the “Minuet”; brass fanfares in “Masks” and always the conductor’s careful control of the big climaxes and contrasts. Principal trumpet Scott Macomber received a solo bow request from Mr. Pollack and a rousing ovation from 750 in attendance.

Following intermission the Rachmaninoff C Minor Piano Concerto, Op. 18, should have been the concert’s capstone, but curiously received a performance where the whole wasn’t the sum of the component parts. Pianist James D’León elected a mostly non-legato approach to the soaring solo line, perhaps necessitated by an overly bright and thin top end in the piano and Mr. Pollack’s interest in weighty sonority over tender pianissimo.

In the opening Moderato the tempos were judicious and playing effective, but the orchestra often covered the piano part, including the coda and the final three chords. In the lovely Adagio Sostenuto Mr. D’León produced a more warn tone, especially in the duos with the clarinet, and highlighted several inner voices in descending figures. Oddly a few notes were smudged in this most popular music, and he used a score resting on the tuning pins.

Balances in the concluding Allegro Scherzando were the best of the night and Mr. D’León’s trills were even and the contrapuntal lines clear. The playing from the Orchestra’s violin sections was lush and only occasionally did they wrest the poetic melodic line from the pianist. Acoustics in this wide tent favor the Orchestra over the pianist, not a surprise given Mr. Pollack’s vociferous demands and his muscular view of the celebrated score.

Strange for an initial Festival concert was the lack of any welcoming remarks by management, talk from the conductor or even a warning to silence cell phones. Mr. Pollack clearly knows what he wants and can bend an artistic unity to his wishes.

Wotan Rock contributed to this review.