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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...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, January 25, 2015
David Ramadanoff, conductor. Corey Fischer, narrator; Eric Tran and Nathan Cheung, piano

Martin, Ramadanoff, Chueng, Tran Jan. 25 (E. Warnimont photo)

ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015

A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay.

Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon audience with interesting and amusing descriptions of the classic works for piano and orchestra, beginning with Respighi's “La Primavera,” which the composer based on the famous painting of the same name by Botticelli. Mr. Ramadanoff noted that “Respighi captures for me the feeling of the very beginning of spring. The sights and smells invite you to step out and enjoy. You'll hear the wind blowing through the trees, then a horn calls us to come out and play.”

The Orchestra’s violin section was precise in this concert, opening the Respighi brilliantly with a beautiful depiction of gentle wind rustling leaves as it passes through trees freshly awoken from their winter sleep. A quiet flute sound rounded out the effect, a feeling that was at once soothing and exciting. Equally evocative at the performance was the sound of the bassoon, which seemed to be representative of a dancer celebrating the season. The work then transitions into a set of varying dance movements, and the tempo begins to change repeatedly until culminating with a full and assertive “ta-da!” finale, which boomed dramatically through the hall.

“Primavera” also provided a glimpse of the agility and sensitivity of pianists Nathan Cheung and Eric Tran, popularly known as the “Happy Dog Duo.” In remarks to the audience Mr. Tran explained “We were on a plane, on our way home from a competition, and started a shared composition game to pass the time. We decided the result sounded like a happy dog.” Tucked away to the rear of the ensemble, the two pianos’ sound carried beautifully, providing a fine complement to Respighi's extraordinary salute to the magic of springtime.

Following was Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, a playful annotation of the fairytale in which young Peter ignores his grandfather's cautioning and wanders into the meadow where wolves are known to prowl. “When I first heard 'Peter' (as a child), I was caught by how Prokofiev wrote for the instruments that described the animals so well. I was captivated,” Mr. Ramadanoff recalled in his “Know the Score” talk before the performance. The conductor treated the audience to a part-by-part demonstration of the various sound effects in the story. “The part of the bird will be played by the flutes, like this,” he began, as a flute played a segment of birdsong sound. “And here's the duck, played by the oboe,” and so forth. This elementary lesson brought the audience into the realm of childhood storytelling and frame of mind for appreciation of the piece, a rich celebration of the art of the story and the imagination of children.

Peter and the Wolf was conducted by Assistant Conductor Pamela Martin, and narrated by actor, director, playwright and musician Corey Fischer. Mr. Fischer is best known for his acting parts in early Robert Altman films and several 1970s television sitcoms including “M*A*S*H.” Ms. Martin's conducting style was exciting and fluid, and the narration melded with the music without any sense of abrupt interruption. Mr. Fischer’s voice is smooth and sculpted, and his range and tempo complemented the symphonic tale. “All is quiet,” chirped the bird, “All is quiet, all is quiet,” he read, followed by sweet sounds from the flute. “Then a duck came waddling round,” he told, as the oboe came in with lower-register quacking sounds. Some of the most carefree moments in the piece come as the duck and the bird are heard to argue, a clear tonal image with a delightful, playful pace, contrasted with the mildly ominous sound of the wolf later approaching the oblivious Peter. There was a palpable building sound of trembling cello and bass instruments.

For the work two concert grand pianos had been brought to the forefront of the Hogan stage, one nestled behind the other so the two pianists could face each other. It created the illusion of one ultra-long instrument with a keyboard at either end.

Rimsky-Korsakov's “Flight of the Bumblebee” began the second half, flawlessly executed by the two soloists. Their pristine performance left the audience breathless, and the performance was so swift and pure it seemed by the time a listener had a moment to contemplate the wonder of the music it was finished.

Completing the afternoon's concert was St. Saëns’ 12-movement The Carnival of the Animals, written in 1886. “St.-Saëns lived an incredibly long life,” Mr. Ramadanoff began in his introduction to the piece, and he was “…born eight years after Beethoven died and he lived into the 20th century to hear the music of Debussy and Stravinsky, which he detested.” He was a consummate composer as well as an avid scientist, and wrote The Carnival of the Animals simply to delight his friends and students.

For each of the twelve parts between the Introduction and Finale, Mr. Fischer again provided lively narrative. In “Turtles,” for example, he said the composer plays a little joke.. The movement begins with a familiar, fast-paced can-can theme, and then slows the melody down to a turtle's pace. Likewise, in “The Elephant,” a delicate dance theme develops into a heavy, plodding march. One especially entertaining part in Carnival is “Kangaroos,” where a musical conversation between the two solo pianos mimics the hopping of the comical marsupials.

The most delightful movement in “Carnival” is the eighth, “Aquarium,” which features rippling sounds from the pianos, rich and “swimming” violins, and the aural image of light sparkling on the water's surface provided by a glockenspiel. For those moments especially, the orchestra’ playing was ravishing.

Mr. Ramadanoff's final concert after more than 30 years at the helm of the VSO is April 12, and subsequently a new conductor and several Orchestra musicians will be named for the next season. This concert will be in Landers Hall, larger in seating than Hogan, and is located at 1310 Club Dr., Mare Island, Vallejo. The theme “Serenité” will include works by Bartok, Debussy, Ravel and TBA. Tickets are $15 to $35, and are available by calling (707) 643-4441 or at www.vallejosymphony.org.