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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital itís easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonicís Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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 Tchaikovskyís 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 Russianís composerís 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 instrumentís 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. Pfutzenreuterís direction.

Surprisingly he played an encore, a set of spiffy variations by Novato composer Mark Summer on the melody ďLo How A Rose E'er Blooming,Ē 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 Coplandís 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 wasnít 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. Itís 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. Rowlandís voice seemed more suited to Coplandís style than Mr. Taite, as in the duet after the playful party section the tenor tended to have a raw top at phrase endings. Coplandís 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 conductorís programing and authority.

Impresario Robert Hayden contributed to this review.