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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...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.