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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...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Cellist Christian Poltéra

A CELLO CONCERTO FROM A DISTANT WORLD

by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 10, 2014

Several surprises characterized the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 10 Weill Hall concert, the first being an almost full house on a Monday night after the same program was heard the two previous days.

The important surprise was how well the audience liked the thorny Dutilleux cello concerto, Tout un Monde Lointain (A Whole Distant World), written for Rostropovich in 1970 and played to the hilt by Swiss cellist Christian Poltéra. It was a courageous program selection by conductor Bruno Ferrandis, especially when surrounded by familiar Debussy and Beethoven.

Taking just under 30 minutes in five movements, the concerto asks the soloist for pristine high-register bowing, eerie descending slides down the fingerboard, and a wide vibrato in difficult fingering positions and phrases. Mr. Poltéra mastered the difficulties with seeming ease, playing from score and in sync with Mr. Ferrandis’ exact orchestral control.

Highlights for me were the duets between concertmaster Jay Zhong and Mr. Poltéra in the fetching lament of the Regard (Gaze) second movement; the novel sound of celesta winding in an out of the percussion lines (marimba, xylophone, bongo drums and triangle); and the interplay between single harp notes and the Symphony’s resonant cello and bass sections. Throughout this wonderful work are wisps from Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto, a piece contemporary to the Dutilleux. But the often hazy and shimmering French composer’s sonority is unique, as was Mr. Poltéra’s softly fading tremolo ending.

Messrs. Poltéra and Ferrandis were recalled three times by an enthusiastic ovation.

Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in A Major closed the evening, a four-movement work with the orchestra sharply reduced in size from the two previous compositions. An extended introduction established vehement rhythmic patterns from timpanist Andrew Lewis, and the playing everywhere was surefooted, especially in duos between piccolo player Stacey Pelinka and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds.

Beethoven's ebullient Scherzo and a demanding Presto third movement were performed with precision and flair. Bassoonists Carla Wilson and Shawn Jones were heard clearly from my balcony seat, as were two blaring but congruent trumpeters. Mr. Ferrandis kept the Symphony’s momentum going into the wild and swirling finale, deftly balancing the rhythmic definition and taking a tempo that seemed overly fast but oh so right.

The applause was loud, and select members of the Symphony were recognized by the conductor.

Opening the concert was a delicate and carefully paced performance of Debussy’s Prelude a L’aprés-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun). Though radical in its time, the now familiar work from 1894 is as captivating as any 11-minute work in the literature. After the famous opening flute solo, played alluringly by Ms. Reynolds, the performance contained virtuosic playing from hornist Meredith Brown, harpist Randall Pratt, clarinetist Roy Zajac, oboist Laura Reynolds and bassoonist Carla Wilson.

Mr. Ferrandis conducted from score and drew rich and gauzy colors from the strings, especially from the viola section.