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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.