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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 itís 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 Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís 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 Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís 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 Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ 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 Philharmonicís 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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, November 10, 2013
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Maya Beiser, cello

RISE AND SHINE

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the advertising images promoting her Nov. 9-11 appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, cellist Maya Beiser is cast as an enchantress, her long golden-brown hair billowing around her brightly light face, centered on her bewitching blue eyes. She holds the cello neck as if it were a wand, preparing to cast a spell over her mesmerized beholders.

The enchantress image continued as Beiser teetered onto the stage on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 10, atop a pair of stiletto heels, with not only her hair, but also a floor-length golden-brown dress wafting behind her like a cumulonimbus cloud. She then spent several anxious moments clambering up the cello podium, rearranging the many folds of her dress to accommodate the cello, and finally fitting bow to string. "She would have done better in a pantsuit," remarked a fashion critic in the row behind me.

Would that wardrobe were Beiser's only problem. The sound that emerged from her instrument at the beginning of Osvaldo Golijov's "Mariel" was thin and hard to hear, despite an electronic pickup attached to the cello's bridge. The piece, originally for cello and marimba, is an elegy for one of the composer's friends, and the intensity of feeling is immediately apparent in the orchestral opening--an intensity that Beiser failed to match.

Beiser's lack of focus was nowhere more evident than in a brief moment when she appeared to lose her grip on the cello's neck and it began sliding downward off the podium. She caught it in plenty of time, however, and her playing thereafter seemed to perk up a bit. By the end, at least some of the remarkable beauty of Golijov's elegy was on display. The Golijov, the last piece in the first half of the concert, was preceded by George Gershwin's "Cuban Overture" and Alberto Ginastera's "Estancia" ballet suite. Both works showed off the Santa Rosa Symphony's virtuosity, fully harnessed by their energetic conductor, Bruno Ferrandis.

Playing to a full house, the Symphony plunged into the "Cuban Overture" at top speed, led by an augmented percussion section. In addition to the usual snare drum, cymbals and wood blocks, the half-dozen percussionists pounded on bongos, shook maracas and scraped the guiro, a serrated instrument that's played with a stick. The lilting Cuban rhythm was infectious, taken up first by the brass and then the strings, who demonstrated that they could swing as much as the drummers. Strong solos from the clarinets and trumpets carried the work to a thrilling conclusion.

Equally thrilling was Ginastera's "Estancia," originally composed in 1941 for a ballet depicting ranch life in Ginastera's native Argentina. Cattle aren't known for their rhythmic flair, but the ranch hands who tend to them appear to favor a vigorous 6/8. That driving, energetic beat dominates the ballet, which features sections such as "Workers on the Land," "Wheat Dance," and "Cattle Men." The culmination is in the final movement, "Malambo," named for an ancient Spanish dance that arrived in Argentina around 1600 and is still spinning heads.

Still clad in her voluminous raiment, Beiser returned to open the second half with Max Bruch's "Kol Nidrei," an Adagio for cello and orchestra based on two powerful Jewish melodies. Eschewing the electronic pickup but making use of an iPad that she controlled with her right foot, Beiser offered a confident statement of the opening melody, bringing far more sound from her cello than previously. As she progressed, however, she slid into almost every high note, indulging in an excess of portamento.

"Kol Nidrei" is quite an affecting piece, and the second theme is particularly gorgeous, leading one neighboring patron to hum along. On balance, Beiser played it well, especially toward the end, when she did finally manage to hold the audience spellbound with an elegiac solo. If only she had gathered those forces earlier in the show.

The show itself ended with a sparkling performance of Gershwin's "Catfish Row," the orchestral suite drawn from his opera "Porgy and Bess." As with the "Cuban Overture," the suite is notable for its orchestration, including a solitary banjo player who sits forlornly between the cellos and the conductor and is granted only one solo: "I got plenty o'nuttin."

The banjo player in this case, who happened to be left-handed, took it all in stride, leading one to wonder how many opportunities exist for orchestral banjo players. Meanwhile all around him, strings of various persuasions leaned heavily into their instruments, playing with all their might to keep up with Ferrandis's brisk pace.

Ferrandis has a real ability to keep the orchestral sections distinctive while never lagging on the beat. The playing throughout was exemplary, from the jarring syncopations of the "Fugue" movement to the lyricism of the famous "Summertime" solo, here ably performed by concertmaster Joe Edelberg. As is often the case, the best was saved for last: "Good mornin', sistuh," with its dazzling orchestration and whirling melodies. The day was almost over at the end, but inside the hall, the sun was just beginning to rise.