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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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