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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
Festival del Sole / Monday, July 14, 2014
Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Alondra de la Parra, conductor. Pinchas Zuckerman, violin; James Valenti, tenor

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014

Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire.

Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Minor Concerto, Op. 26, with his customary control and consistency. An old friend to the Concerto, Mr. Zuckerman played with fastidious if conventional phrasing through the three movements, and the ruminating Adagio elicited his most convincing virtuosity.

With conductor Alondra de la Parra keeping the orchestra mostly with the soloist, the gypsy rhythms of the finale allowed Mr. Zuckerman to dig into the strings and his quick appoggiaturas added spice. At times the violin line, a long romantic line in this poetic work, got lost in the orchestra fabric. There was a standing ovation from the 800 in the hall.

In a series of mostly Italian opera arias tenor James Valenti sang with firm control and balanced registers. He has an attractive stage presence and his voice, though this evening tending to the monochromatic, was especially rich in the baritone range. The Orchestra never covered Mr. Valenti even in Tosti’s dramatic “Ideale,” long a Pavarotti specialty, and Salvatore Cardillo’s lovely "Core ‘ngrato." There was a break from Italian with Lehar’s “Dein ist mein gazes herz”, and here Mr. Valenti emphasized the suave slow waltz rhythms that reminded me that Sigmund Romberg knew Lehar’s compositions.

There were three orchestra works interspaced in the program, beginning with a short and furious Overture from Bizet’s Carmen, and in the first half the famous Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. The Intermezzo’s tempo was judicious and Ms. de la Parra had a deft baton, changing the repeated phrases just slightly.

After intermission came Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, the G major one from 1889. The Sphinx made the most of the work’s two boisterous movements, and the gracious Allegretto based on a charming waltz theme was performed with élan. Throughout the Symphony the conductor coaxed colorful and piquant effects from the orchestra, but with sporadic instrumental blemishes in horns and winds. Ms. de la Parra conducted without score but with a secure Dvorak flair.

This Orchestra, founded 16 years ago to spotlight Afro-American and Latino musicians, had the high string power that non-professional ensembles seldom have, but also lacked the string polish and articulation of top-drawer symphonies.