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Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
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.