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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
San Francisco Symphony / Thursday, September 12, 2013
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor. Yefim Bronfman, piano

Michael Tilson Thomas' Curtain Call in Weill Sept. 12

CHALLENGING WORKS FROM A POWERHOUSE ORCHESTRA

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Launching the first fall season concert in Weill Hall, the San Francisco Symphony played a peculiarly challenging program Sept. 12 to an audience that was happy to encounter more than just the popular Tchaikovsky B Flat Piano Concerto.

"Challenging" was the operative word for the Third Prokofiev Symphony, a work from 1928 that has few current podium champions. One conductor who loves the work is Michael Tilson Thomas, and he drew an inspired and brilliant performance from his orchestra. This is a corrosive piece, not as easily assimilated as the composer’s First and Fifth Symphonies, and the audience of 1,100 seemed dazed at the initial clangor and dissonance of the opening Moderato. Mr. Thomas adopted a quick march-like tempo, and balances were critical, as the piece needs sonic space and careful baton control to convey the prevailing mood of unrest. Brass and tympani playing were terrific, and a lonely note from bassoonist Stephen Paulson ended the movement.

A bucolic Andante led into the third movement’s intricate string passages, the long first section sans winds or brass. The scintillating playing brought the music to a caricature of a high-level film score. There were virtuoso brass, flute and piccolo solos throughout.

Mr. Thomas drove the finale like a determined massive machine, plodding at first and really pretty grim until ending with heavy percussion blows and blaring but crystal-clear brass. The applause was strong but not overwhelming, perhaps more in admiration for the orchestra’s sonic achievement than appreciation of the complicated and demanding music.

Tchaikovsky’s Op. 23 Concerto, with Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman, concluded the first half. As in Mr. Bronfman’s Beethoven concerto performance last season with the same orchestra, the playing was replete hallmarks of his artistry--secure scales, a strong left hand and octaves that never failed him in a concerto crammed with fast two-hand octave passages. But as in his first Weill Hall performance, Mr. Bronfman brought little that was individual in his interpretation, and his habit of half-pedaling descending runs hampered clarity. Solos from clarinetist Carey Bell and flutist Tim Say were splendid, as was beautiful oboe playing from acting Principal Jonathan Fischer

Though Mr. Bronfman had the requisite power for the Concerto, the acoustics in the wonderful Weill Hall favor a big orchestra, and one wonders if even the most orchestral of pianists--powerhouses like Horowitz, Hofmann and even Anton Rubinstein--could be clearly heard in fortissimo passages over Mr. Thomas’ resounding orchestra.

The concert opened with Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri's 12-minute exploration of eerie sound, Lineage (2013). Written for Miami’s New World Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony, the piece is a mournful and haunting set of recurring small themes, flitting about with sharp contrasting passages. Ms. Di Castri, in the audience and greeted by the conductor at the work’s conclusion, asks for a large orchestra to produce a ghostly tapestry of sound, and I counted five percussionists (with loud bells, chimes, and marimba), piano and celesta. It was daring music in its whirling and spooky way, a highlight of the evening, and received a glorious performance and a happily intrigued audience reaction. Lineage is a colorful candidate for entering the San Francisco Symphony’s repertoire.

Though the hall’s galleries were full, many orchestra-level seats were conspicuously empty at this concert, perhaps reflecting the husky ticket prices for prime seats.