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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Green Music Center / Thursday, October 16, 2014
San Francisco Symphony. Stéphane Deneve, conductor. Isabelle Faust, violin

Conductor Stéphane Deneve

BEYOND THE GOLDEN GATE

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three works composed within three years of each other were programmed in the San Francisco Symphony’s concert in Weill Hall on Oct. 16, but each was sharply different.

Before a nearly full house, conductor Stéphane Denève opened with Barber’s iconic Adagio for Strings, Op. 11, in a compelling but not overly intense 10-minute performance. Cutoffs were precise, as were the violin section attacks. Mr. Denève fashioned a short concluding fermata but momentarily stopped any audience response with his left hand held high and motionless.

Strangely this mesmerizing music was quickly forgotten as violinist Isabelle Faust tackled Britten’s rarely played Violin Concerto, Op. 16, a virtuosic interplay of orchestra and soloist. Playing from score, Ms. Faust negotiated the continual high-register thematic lines and violent right-hand string plucks and slaps with aplomb. Meanwhile, Mr. Denève had consummate control over the orchestra, never covering the soloist.

At times in the Vivace movement, the music became violin against orchestra, and bits of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony sounded in Britten’s power climaxes. There was a long violin slide to a magnificent cadenza, along with stellar playing by the trombones, tuba and French horns. Ms. Faust deftly handled the special technique of simultaneous bowing and pizzicato.

The Passacaglia finale had a menacing character, anchored by the powerful violin sound and solos by harp and clarinet. At the end, the Symphony’s refined quiet playing underscored a lovely slow trill from Ms. Faust. Mr. Denève again stopped the expected ovation with a raised arm for many seconds after the music ceased.

For Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, the orchestra was augmented by saxophone and piano. The playing was virtuosic for a not-long-at-all 39 minutes. Instrumental duos were spread throughout the orchestra: harp and piano, saxophone and oboe, English horn and flute, string tremolos with bassoon, and even the juxtaposition of trombones and trumpets. The string section handoffs (violas to violins) were seamless, and fast accelerandos and strident passages were played faultlessly.

There is nothing Russian about these dances from a composer who was intensely Russian. Mr. Denève’s authoritative baton was always whirling and thrusting, asking often for a vast volume of sound. Weill Hall and ultimately the audience responded in kind.

Following a raucous ovation, Mr. Denève breathlessly addressed the audience to praise Weill’s acoustics and rhetorically ask for a return concert with this marvelous orchestra.

Violinist Ruggiero Spalding contributed to this review