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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

RIMSKY PROVES RISKY IN GUERNEVILLE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 21, 2008

Seth Montfort’s Russian River Conservatory seems to have a lock on classical music premieres for the North Bay and Sonoma County, with nearly every concert in his Guerneville mortuary-turned–concert-hall bringing arcane repertoire to small but knowledgeable audiences. Concerts produced by Seth are adventures.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C Sharp was the featured work on Sept. 21, with Montfort at the Conservatory piano and Gabriel Sakakeeny conducting the Mortuary Orchestra of Guerneville. Having a professional conductor (Sakakeeny is the director of the American Philharmonic Sonoma County) was an absolute necessity for this concert, as rehearsal time was limited, acoustics were problematic, and the music was probably new to all, including this reviewer, whose only experience with the concerto is the long-vanished Richter recording from the 1960s.

The concerto doesn’t quite fit into conventional orchestral repertoire. Composed in 1882, at the same time as the similar (but longer) Arensky Concerto in F, the Rimsky work is on a different planet than the ca.1875 blockbusters of the Russian canon, the Tchaikovsky B-Flat and the Rubinstein D Minor. Rimsky’s work never really makes an artistic whole. There is much Liszt present in thematic transformation, lots of octaves in the piano, and much alteration of tempo.

In this performance, there was, unfortunately, not much alteration of volume, nor was there any subtlety of phrasing or harmonic balancing. The reasons for this lack of success were manifold: the inadequate and dull piano, the absence of pianistic rubato, the dense textures from the small performance space, and a sense of incompatibility between the solo instrument and the 29-musician orchestra.

On the other hand, the aspects that went well were quite lovely, including the ardent clarinet solos by Jeff Chan; the uniformly good horn playing from Janis Lieberman and Paul Hadley; the long, repetitious but lovely solo cadenza with choice resurrections of the opening theme; and Sakakeeny’s rapt attention to the score.

This reviewer could not stay for the second half, a complete “Seasons” of Vivaldi. Alas, it was my loss, as phone calls the next day revealed that the performance had polish, charm and authenticity.