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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, March 23, 2014
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra. Paul Silverthorne, viola

A TOUR DE FORCE OF SONIC SPLENDOR

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 23, 2014

On paper the Santa Rosa Symphony's March 23 concert in Weill Hall looked promising and even provocative, with a world-premiere concerto, a famous solo violist and two flashy Russian orchestral works. But as often is the case, in unexpected ways the whole was not equal to the sum of the parts.

Behzad Ranjbaran's new viola concerto was written for the Symphony and the eminent British violist, Paul Silverthorne, and closed the concert's first half before 1,200 on yet another balmy Sonoma County Sunday afternoon. Silverthorne, surprisingly playing from score, displayed in the opening Adagio a warm lower register and, for expressive effect, lots of tiny slides into notes. Ranjbaran makes use of a large orchestra, with plentiful interplay of marimba, xylophone, celesta and harp. Flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds played prominent mellifluous short notes and what sounded like chirps. As a composer, Ranjbaran is a master orchestrator and a canny exploiter of unique tone colors.

In the central Largo movement, the solo part had double stops and virtuoso phrasing in an often sad lament, but as in the first and last movements, Silverthorne could not effectively project above the orchestra's weighty sound. There were no pyrotechnics here, and conductor Bruno Ferrandis shaped the ensemble in music reminiscent of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. Muted trumpets and the marimbist Stan Muncy gave the music a somber air. The duo between Silverthorne and violinist Jay Zhong was lively, the two string lines ending the movement in a captivating hush.

Without pause, the concerto was off and running into an Allegro vivace, the playing angry at times and with short snippets of themes. Instead of a conventional symphonic long line, Ranjbaran juxtaposes short melodic statements in many guises. Silverthorne played his viola splendidly but was again outgunned against the orchestral fabric. At the end, Ranjbaran joined Silverthorne and Ferrandis on stage to loud applause.

To open the concert, members of the Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra paired with the Symphony in a scrappy and boisterous performance of a chestnut, Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" from the opera "Prince Igor." There was expert playing by oboe, English horn and harp, and even a piquant sound from the tambourine. As good as dances were, the showpiece of the day was the closing work, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Ferrandis, in complete control all afternoon, was at his consummate best in this glorious display of symphonic prowess.

Hardly looking at the score, Ferrandis guided a cacophonous but shapely performance that was a feast for the first-chair players in almost every section. If the Ranjbaran was a concerto for viola, the Rimsky was one for the orchestra. Mention must be made of the glamorous playing from clarinetist Roy Zajac, cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns, oboist Laura Reynolds, flutists Stacey Pelinka and Ms. Reynolds, hornist Caitlyn Smith, trumpeters Doug Morton and Scott Macomber, timpanist Andrew Lewis, and percussionist Allen Biggs. Concertmaster Zhong's long solo passages, depicting the young Scheherazade, were played in an understated manner and traded power for lyricism, all to a good end.

Rising above this tour de force of sonic splendor was the dominating baton and vision of the conductor. After the final tutti, Ferrandis was liberal in acknowledging the sections and leaders, each getting a roar of audience approval.