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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...
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