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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, February 08, 2015
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. JP Jofre, bandoneón

Bandoneonist JP Jofre

A BANDONEONIST WALKS INTO A BAR ...

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 08, 2015

Seeing a bandoneón player in front of a symphony orchestra reminds one of the old joke about a kangaroo walking into a high-priced bar. The bartender says, "We don't get many kangaroos in here," to which the kangaroo replies, "With these prices, I can see why." Likewise, if a bandoneónist were to walk into an orchestra rehearsal and be told, "We don't get many bandoneónists in here," he or she might well reply, "With this instrumentation, I can see why."

Fitting a squeeze-box Argentinian bandoneón – an essential element of tango dance-hall bands – into a classical-music milieu is a bit of a stretch. The two sound-worlds are so fundamentally different that it's hard to imagine how they could intersect. Nonetheless, star Argentinian bandoneónist J.P. Jofre and the Santa Rosa Symphony gave it a whirl on Sunday at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park, premiering a concerto for bandoneón and orchestra by Pablo Ortiz, an Argentinian professor of composition at UC Davis.

The results ranged from the transcendent to the perplexing. In the transcendent corner were a number of arresting passages, usually slow, that allowed the bandoneón's plangent sound to pierce through the orchestral haze. On the perplexing side were passages in which the bandoneón line seemed utterly random, unable to find a thematic center. In the middle of the ring was Jofre, who delivered all his many solos with technical mastery and sensitivity.

Jofre is a striking presence on the stage. Clad in a black leather jacket and wearing white-framed designer glasses, he put his right foot atop a piano stool and placed the bandoneón (essentially a large concertina) on his right knee. The buttons on the instrument activate reeds, which produce a distinctive, often melancholy sound, somewhere between an organ and a harmonica.

The opening movement of Ortiz's concerto steered clear of melancholy. Instead, Jofre opened by noodling rapid notes in his right hand while the orchestra stayed at arm's length. Later in the movement, a slow passage brought the bandoneón's distinctive sound to the fore. Here orchestra and instrument finally meshed.

That union continued in the second movement, which opened with shimmering strings and an evocative solo from Jofre that was both nostalgic and yearning. Things perked up considerably in the concluding movement, with its insistent dance beat, syncopation, and wonderful marimba solos. Jofre joined in with some spectacular playing and intricate passagework.

Called back to the stage by strong applause, Jofre offered a more traditional bandoneón solo for an encore, the Capricho Otoñal by Leopoldo Federico. The contrast with the concerto was striking. The sound was louder, the melody more tender, and the notes more connected, almost slurred. The two pieces did, however, share the same pervasive melancholy that seems inseparable from the instrument's sound.

The remainder of the concert was far more upbeat, from an unexpected preconcert viola solo to the rousing finale of Brahms' Second Symphony. The viola soloist was Aimee Gruen, a member of the Symphony's youth orchestra, who played a selection from Ernest Bloch's Suite Hebraic as part of a fundraising effort for the youth orchestra's upcoming tour of China.

The adult version of the orchestra weighed in next with a sparkling reading of the Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis held everyone together, although at times his conducting seemed a bit frantic.

The Brahms Symphony No. 2, played after intermission, is not the least bit frantic. Here Ferrandis allowed the majestic themes to rise and fall at a leisurely pace. The opening movement featured outstanding French horn solos by principal Meredith Brown, complemented by a lush sound from the strings.

You expect more rhythmic contrast from the third movement, but again the pace was leisurely. Presto sections verged on Allegro, and the syncopations, while well played, didn't really pop. The fourth began more energetically, with Ferrandis picking up the pace. The ensemble was meticulous, the dynamics well controlled, the drive to the end relentless.

Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.