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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.