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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.