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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
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 REVIEW

Jeffrey Kahane and Bruno Ferrandis

BENEFIT FOR CHILDREN, BOON FOR MUSIC LOVERS

by Steve Osborn
Thursday, May 22, 2014

For its postseason concert on May 22, the Santa Rosa Symphony--together with piano soloist Jeffrey Kahane and conductor Bruno Ferrandis--played for free. The money they would otherwise have earned will be used to benefit more than 20,000 children served by the Symphony's extensive outreach efforts, which include four youth orchestras, free concerts for elementary schoolchildren, and various school-based music activities. Over the years, these efforts have produced a steady stream of musicians and music lovers, a key factor in helping classical music thrive in the North Bay.

In a sign of the times, the concert began with a cell phone going off just as the orchestra was preparing to launch into Carl Maria von Weber's overture to his 1826 opera "Oberon." Everyone paused while the guilty party silenced the device, and then the orchestra began anew, this time with a French horn instead of a cell phone. Conducting without a score, Ferrandis ushered the musicians through a spirited performance marked by many sudden transitions and a well-controlled rhythmic flexibility. The brass and basses were particularly strong, taking advantage of Weill Hall's superb acoustics to project a resonant tone.

True to its form, the overture set the stage for the main event: two beloved piano concertos by Beethoven (No. 3) and Chopin (No. 2) performed by conductor laureate Kahane, who led the Symphony from 1995 to 2006. Equally at home as a conductor or a soloist, Kahane assumed the latter duties and left the conducting to Ferrandis. The two men seemed to read each other's minds throughout the concert, and they were never in conflict.

Opening with the Beethoven, Ferrandis set a brisk tempo in the long introduction, crafting a tremendous buildup to the piano's eventual entry. Kahane picked up where the orchestra left off, playing his opening phrases with authority and utmost precision. He is a wonderful pianist to watch. His body language, while never extravagant, telegraphs full immersion in the music. One of his characteristic poses is to lean back during expressive passages, stare into space, and let his fingers glide across the keys. For more intense passages, he leans in, bearing down on the notes and then leaping off at the end of phrases.

The opening movement is a classic example of motivic development, in which a short musical phrase is stated and restated in various guises. Kahane and Ferrandis brought out each statement astutely, highlighting the movement's structure and creating a powerful sense of forward motion. The balance throughout was excellent, with Kahane's quietest passages fully audible and never drowned out.

That quietude dominated the Largo second movement, which was as dulcet as the first was forceful. Kahane's playing was luxuriant, his feathery touch bringing forth a gentle river of sound. The notes flowed into each other, almost as if they hadn't been individually struck. The most dramatic passages were the quietest ones, perched just on the edge of evanescence.

In contrast, the finale was a boisterous Rondo that found Kahane hitting strong off-beat accents and sprinting through a cascade of runs. His energy was matched by the orchestra, which stayed with him beat for beat all the way to the rousing conclusion. The standing ovation from the nearly full house was immediate and sustained. "That was unbelievable," said my neighbor to his companion.

After intermission, that same neighbor advised his companion to "sit back and enjoy." He was referring to the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2, a virtuosic showcase for the soloist, with the orchestra relegated to a minor role. Composed when Chopin was only 20, the concerto is filled with youthful enthusiasm and, in the second movement, heartfelt romantic longing.

Kahane proved indefatigable throughout. His light touch is one of his greatest strengths, and he had plenty of opportunity to play at the softest of dynamics, with the orchestra barely audible in the background. He was at his softest in the languid second movement, with its dominant trills and operatic contours. Chopin intended the movement as an expression of his love for a young singer, and the yearning is evident, with one gentle shower of notes after another. In Kahane's hands, the effect was otherworldly, particularly in the middle section, where the piano line floats above a hushed string tremolo.

All is not sweetness and light, however. The outer movements have many driving passages, and Kahane attacked these vigorously. In the Allegro vivace finale, with its mazurka rhythms, his fingers went impossibly fast without ever missing a note. His interpretation emphasized happiness rather than drama, and he kept dancing all the way to the end, which was greeted with another standing ovation.

As the applause continued, Kahane settled down for an encore, Chopin's Nocturne in D flat. It was a fitting end for the concert, which began early in the evening with light streaming through Weill Hall's many windows and was now enveloped in darkness.

Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.