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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
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.