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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Sonoma State University Department of Music / Sunday, August 24, 2014
Brass ensemble. Brian Wilson, conductor. James David Christie and Julian Wachner, organ; Tony Collins, trombone; Doug Morton, trumpet; Ruth Ann Swenson, soprano; Roy Zajac, clarinet; Marilyn Thompson, piano

Soprano Ruth Ann Swenson

VOCAL PYROTECHNICS LIGHT UP SCHROEDER HALL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 24, 2014

What could end a wildly successful 10-concert inaugural weekend in SSU’s new Schroeder Hall? A resounding concert of manifold brass, organ and voice that turned out by a wide margin to be the overall audience favorite.

The long Sunday evening event put on display every piece of Schroeder’s vaunted acoustics. Led by organists James David Christie and Julian Wachner, 11 works--from Vivaldi to a new-age organ improvisation and a world premiere--showcased the elegant small hall.

Widely anticipated was Schubert’s “The Shepherd on the Rock,” arguably his last work and long a favorite for sopranos. Roy Zajac’s exalted and melodic clarinet playing and Marilyn Thompson’s suave pianism were upstaged by a dramatic performance of the three sections by diva Ruth Ann Swenson. The middle section is always slow and heartfelt, but this performance was beyond my previous hearings, the tone quality going throughout from full brilliance to a velvety smooth, plaintive sound that was continually beguiling. And then the classic structure burst into warm sunshine in the last contrasted section. Ms. Swenson sang with agility and joy, playing with the articulation when she felt capricious. Her stunning performance drove the packed audience to its feet in a roaring ovation.

Brian Wilson’s premiered work, “Stood the Seraphim,” opened the concert in a four-minute triumphal fanfare for brass ensemble and organ. The composer conducted with command and sweep, emphasizing the march-like aspects of the work. Later he directed three canzons of Gabrieli that were a feast of antiphonal sound, with the brass choirs at opposite ends of the hall. In the "Canzon for Double Echo" (also conducted by Mr. Wilson), the extended reverberation time gave the music a kind of glorious syncopation.

A special treat was Mr. Christie’s performance of Vivaldi’s D Major Concerto, RV 93. The nature of the polyphonic choral dialog between the two manual divisions was registered well, with a tasteful Baroque touch. The Concerto displayed precise sounds of the two reed stops used in combination with the full organ.

Mr. Wachner played his own “Blue and Green” and “Fanfare Improvisation,” which were both perfectly presented with the registrations he chose and with a meandering church-music flair. He had company in the organ loft when Ms. Swenson and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds performed the “Domine Deus” from Vivaldi’s Gloria, and a Handel Sonata for Trombone, with Tony Collins playing the difficult solo part. The introductory phrases in the Vivaldi for the flute were especially enchanting, leading to a congenial and somewhat vocal blend with the organ.

Handel's resplendent “Volate Amon” from the opera seria Ariodante (HWV 23) closed the concert, with Ms. Swenson perched next to Mr. Christie’s organ keyboard and providing the final pyrotechnical salute to the venue. The performance was a tour de force of brilliant vocal virtuosity. Ms. Swenson’s potent and florid dramatic soprano voice wove in and out of the organ line with easy sensitivity and palpable gaiety.

It was an irresistible duo, and both artists were recalled several times, affectionately embracing and enjoying ecstatic applause and louds “bravas” and “bravos.”

James Harrod and Mary Beard contributed to the review