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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
San Francisco Symphony / Thursday, February 12, 2015
Herbert Bloomstedt, conductor. Peter Serkin, piano

San Francisco Symphony and Peter Serkin (piano) Feb. 12 (N. Bell Photo)

BOLD OPERATIC AND SYMPHONIC CONTRASTS IN SF SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Nicki Bell
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pianist Peter Serkin and San Francisco Symphony Laureate conductor Herbert Blomstedt pulled musical extremes together on Feb. 12 in Weill Hall Symphony concert where artistic experience was a defining factor. From the warmth and humor of Mozart’s F Major Piano Concerto, K. 459, to the turmoil, drama and final ecstasy of the Sibelius Second Symphony, the music flowed with richness and resonance.

Mozart 19th Concerto from 1784 is Mozart at his height of popularity.  Its beginning is permeated with a “Magic Flute” flavor, Pamino and Tamino's ancestors, with its warmth, humor, flirtatious mischief.  Mr. Serkin played with gorgeous, luscious tone, his phrases beautifully voiced and shaped.  With the
acoustics of the hall, the clarity of the instruments is exciting, a lush string sound, and the winds shone in their changing of the mood colors.  The three movements are an opera unfolding in sound.  One interesting aspect of the pianist’s playing was his use of ersatz vibrato on an ending note and then to lift his right arm into the air, still moving with a waving tremolo.  This seems to be derived Mr. Serkin’s teacher father, Rudolf, but was also a trait from the Schnabel family of musicians.

Mr. Blomstedt was hidden behind the piano lid during the Mozart, but with the Sibelius it was a shock to see him conducting without either score or baton.  He is 88 and seemed calmly commanding, thoroughly in his element.   From the chamber orchestra size in the Concerto, the San Francisco Symphony doubled in size for the Sibelius Second Symphony in D Major, Op. 43, with a full complement of brass, percussion, winds and extra strings.

This behemoth work was built primarily out of what has been called "handfuls of thematic nuclei" that evolve into complete structures. The melodic "do-re-mi" of the beginning is used throughout and by the end has expanded and morphed as an acorn into an oak tree. Each of the four movements are filled with intense contrasts.  This is a large scale work that premiered in Helsinki in 1902 with the composer conducting.  

There is an apocalyptic character to the piece and the nearly full audience in Weill was was bathed in magnificent and monumental sound.  From oboe laments to full-throttle strings, fabulous double bass pluckings to woodwind choirs, pastorale interludes giving way to the brass, the dramatic themes and emotional turmoil roll throughout the four movements to a grand, heroic fortissimo conclusion,

People from Finland have said that “there is something about his music (Jean Sibelius), at least for us Finns, that leads us to ecstasy, almost like a shaman with his magic drum.” Mr. Blomstedt and the virtuoso San Francisco Symphony were the audience’s shaman in this prodigious concert.