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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
Mastercard Performance Series / Saturday, February 14, 2015
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Charles Dutoit, conductor. Nikolai Lugansky, piano

Conductor Charles Dutoit

CHAMPAGNE ORGY OF SWISS ORCHESTRA'S SOUND IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015

Orchestras on tour usually perform hefty display works to showoff their virtuosity and power. And so it was with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) Feb. 14 in Weill Hall. Big works, weighty display. And in a surprise the compositions by Stravinsky and Ravel in the second half did the rare thing of upstaging a popular Rachmaninoff piece with piano.

Debussy’s Ibéria opened the concert and the performance established the OSR as a resplendent ensemble with a charismatic leader. Conductor Charles Dutoit directed in a taught reading where the Spanish flavor of the 1908 tone poem only appeared near the end with the sound of castanets, trombone slides and glowing melodies in the bassoons. and oboes.

Mr. Dutoit has a direct but never extravagant podium style, using the score for each of the four works and conveying cues effortlessly to the 80-person OSR, all clad in black with the men in tails and the women in stylish dresses and pant suits.

The overshadowed item was Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op 43, with Mr. Dutoit and pianist Nikolai Lugansky in happy agreement about tempos and phrasing. In many ways it’s a more difficult work to perform than Rachmaninoff’s C and D-Minor Concertos, as many of the variations and tricky rhythms can cause ensemble problems. But here all was in place with the soloist’s sure technical command in evidence in the flashy cadenza of Variation 15 and inimitable playing from the brass. That said, it was a conventional performance with orthodox phrasing and style. Pleasing in every way but a bit prosaic, even at the repeated “Dies Irae” plainchant motifs so familiar with this composer. At the end the audience recalled Mr. Lugansky three times but there was no encore. Concertmaster Bogdan Zvoristeanu played compelling solos as he did throughout the evening

Mr. Dutoit led a concluding half that was a champagne orgy in sound, beginning with Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingalesuite from his ballet. Here the playing from the entire wind section, especially from flutists Sarah Rumer and Loïe Schneider, was brilliant, and the conductor carefully managed the many short inter-section duos: solo violin and winds, trumpets and strings, harps and celesta.

Sonic splendor continued with a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, another work extracted from a ballet. The French’s composer’s style, so familiar from the Mother Goose Suite and Impressionist piano works, brought forth gorgeous string playing, and Mr. Dutoit’s command of changes of volume and orchestral texture was faultless. Again solos from the winds were shapely and Mr. Dutoit clearly has this music in his Swiss (and surely Gallic) blood, controlling the knotty Danse Générale with a fluid but precise beat.

I have heard many Weill Hall ovations that have been louder than the one the OSR received, but perhaps none longer. The audience of 1,100 adopted a European-style of approval with stamping feet and continuous applause, and the conductor was called out four times. An encore was not forthcoming and Mr. Dutoit finally waved his hands, signaling that the musicians wanted to finally leave what had been a memorable concert.