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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 / Thursday, May 22, 2014
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Jeffrey Kahane, piano

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.