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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
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.