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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 it’s 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 Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s 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 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s 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 Rossini’s “William Tell” 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 Philharmonic’s 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
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.