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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
Philharmonia Healdsburg / Sunday, February 22, 2015
Les Pfutzenreuter, conductor. Joel Cohen, cello. Abigail Rowland, soprano; Alexander Taite, tenor.

P. Santos and J. Koningsmark (left) watch as Les Pfutzenreuter greets Joel Cohen

HEALDSBURG PHILHARMONIA PLAYS THE RAVEN

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 22, 2015

Les Pfutzenreuter is a conductor that gets around, moving from his Ukiah base at Mendocino College and the Ukiah Symphony to festival and concert appearances with many orchestras. February 22 found him with the Healdsburg Philharmonia in that City’s Raven Theater with works of Copland and Tchaikovsky.

Cellist Joel Cohen was the featured soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, Op. 33, a work he played recently with the same conductor and the Ukiah Symphony. Here the Orchestra was reduced in size, not a bad thing considering the intimate nature of the Russian’s composer’s work from 1877, but I found myself missing the heft of more strings in the original score. Mr. Cohen gave a compelling if not especially virtuosic reading of the 20-minute work, and was the only person on stage eschewing standard black concert attire.

The soloist was especially persuasive in the instrument’s lower register, but the low fingerboard positions bought intonation problems as they sporadically did with the violins. Mr. Cohen chose a relatively subdued approach to projection and vibrato, certainly a valid stance in a work that is classical and elegant rather than heaven storming. His control of pianissimo was sure and the two beguiling descending slides were decorous. Though several of the variations needed more velocity Mr. Cohen was never in a hurry, phrasing with care and blending well with Mr. Pfutzenreuter’s direction.

Surprisingly he played an encore, a set of spiffy variations by Novato composer Mark Summer on the melody “Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming,” with sections that sounded like a Bach Gigue and then some sans-bow strumming and hand slapping on the cello body. The audience of 175 loved it and extended the applause for the soloist and musicians.

In the first half Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite and an arrangement for small orchestra of the Tender Land Suite were heard. Both were for 13 Instruments and the latter featured soprano Abigail Rowland and tenor Alexander Taite. There was polished playing from concertmaster Phillip Santos, flutist Michalle Caimotto, bassoonists Beverly McChesney and Ann Hubbard, and (performing a kind of continuo and pedal point) pianist Elizabeth MacDougall. Unlike in many orchestral compositions the piano in Copland (and Shostakovich) can actually be heard through the orchestra fabric.

The familiar themes from the famous Martha Graham 1944 ballet were deftly shaped by Mr. Pfutzenreuter and the commonly played version for full orchestra that is more dense and expansive wasn’t missed.

In the 31-minute Tender Land work the two singers were amplified, a strange choice for the conductor as it upset the balance between voice and instruments. It’s rare that two non-Wagnerian singers can cover even a small orchestra, but amplification can do it! The symphonic textures here were parallel to the Appalachian Spring Suite. Ms. Rowland’s voice seemed more suited to Copland’s style than Mr. Taite, as in the duet after the playful party section the tenor tended to have a raw top at phrase endings. Copland’s vocal line often borders on Sprechstimme (speech singing) and excludes much warm lyricism.

Throughout the afternoon the ensemble and graceful playing from the winds gave color and impetus to the three works, a validation of the conductor’s programing and authority.

Impresario Robert Hayden contributed to this review.