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SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Ukiah Symphony / Sunday, December 8, 2013
Les Pfutzenreuter, condcutor. Mendocino College Masterworks Chorale. Elizabeth MacDougall and Elena Casanova, piano

Pianists E. Casanova and E. MacDougall Dec. 8

MOZART AND ST.SAËNS WORKS IN USO CHRISTMAS CONCERT

by Earl Dixon
Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Ukiah Symphony Orchestra presented its holiday program December 7 and 8 at the Mendocino College Center Theater. Pianists Elena Casanova and Elizabeth McDougall were featured guest artists.

At the Sunday matinee conductor Les Pfutzenreuter announced a few changes in the order of the program and then started with “A Canadian Brass Christmas,” arranged by Luther Henderson and Calvin Custer.

This medley featured symphonic arrangements of four carols: “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Huron Carol” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Although some of the attacks by the horn section seemed underpowered, the pieces were rendered with feeling and good dynamic control. The lesser-known “Huron Carol” was an inspiration.

Next came “Russian Christmas Music” by the prolific American composer Alfred Reed. This piece begins with a rather melancholy theme and then gradually builds to grandeur. Mr. Pfutzenreuter skillfully led the orchestra through the slow transition, marked thematically by chordal variations rather than melodic ones. This is a difficult movement that the symphony carried off successfully to a triumphant conclusion, helped in no small part by some excellent percussion playing.

Following Intermission Ms. Casanova and Ms. McDougall took their places at facing pianos on stage, and the Orchestra began with Mozart’s Concerto in E-Flat Major, K. 365. This piece has three movements: Allegro, Andante, and Rondo. It was unfortunate in this splendid Concerto that Ms. Casanova performed on a concert grand, with its more powerful and brighter sound, and Ms. MacDougall played Mozart’s magical themes on a less resonant smaller grand. This may have contributed to the impression that Ms. McDougall seemed to struggle for several moments, an uncharacteristic result for this stalwart Mendocino artist. Aside from those brief moments her performance was as always technically brilliant. Unhampered by technical pitfalls, Ms. Casanova turned in a flawless performance and seemed to exhibit a real joy in what she was doing.

The first movement exuded a sense of playfulness among the two pianists and the Orchestra that communicated well to the audience.

The Andante featured some impressive handoffs in individual passages between the two soloists. Despite the differing tonal quality of the two pianos, these alternating thematic phrases were handled with such skill that it was difficult to tell where one left off and the other began.

The Rondo was crisp and exciting but the conclusion of the Concerto was played by the orchestra in an understated manner. Just why this happened is difficult to pinpoint, but the final chord was performed with such timidity that the audience was uncertain as to whether the piece had ended or not, and so sat in silence for an uncomfortably long moment.

The final formal work on the program was St. Saëns’ 14-movement suite “Carnival of the Animals” from 1886. This was played to an amusing poetic narration written for the piece in 1949 by Ogden Nash and read by Ukiah thespian Phyllis Bluestein. This was expertly played and coordinated by all concerned. One of the composition’s iconic pieces, “Aquarium,” was especially poignant.

The afternoon concluded with a Christmas sing-along of several traditional carols played by the Orchestra and the two pianists.