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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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...
CHAMBER REVIEW

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