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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.