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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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 WITH 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...
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.