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SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, April 12, 2015
David Ramadanoff, conductor. Dan Levitan, harp

Conductor David Ramadanoff

WARM RAMADANOFF FAREWELL IN VSO'S MARE ISLAND CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, April 12, 2015

Vallejo bid a fond farewell April 12 to a pillar of the arts community in a concert on Vallejo's Mare Island, as David Ramadanoff directed the Vallejo Symphony in his last concert as conductor. A polite but somber mood hung over Lander hall Sunday and was as pronounced as the notes produced by the musicians’ instruments.

Mr. Ramadanoff arrived onstage to enthusiastic applause, a repeat of the standing ovation he received at the onset of the symphony's last concert in January. The conductor graciously thanked the audience and in his trademark style, deflected their praise onto the musicians. He then proceeded to introduce the day's program, titled “Serenité.”

The program lineup surveyed a time of transition in Paris during the early part of the 20th century. Debussy and Ravel created music that now is called Impressionism, and the subsequent works of Poulenc, Honegger and Ibert represent a blossoming from that original style. In remarks to the audience the conductor explained that even Bartok’s music exemplifies the spirit of experimentation that prevailed in the period.

Bartok's “Romanian Dances opened the concert with the violins providing a unison beat in “Stick Dance,” a movement that danced upon by a delicate melody emanating from the winds. The second, “Sash Dance,” has a mysterious tone, as if the dancers would be performing on a stage, veiled and seductive. In all of the dances there was tremendous clarity, precision and feeling in the symphony's playing, yet alongside that perfection was also a sense of muting, in both overall volume and physical energy.

Next was Debussy’s “Danses sacrées et profanes,” featuring harpist Dan Levitan. This selection is another rather sedate, mysterious and seductive composition, but it also contains that special, magical quality that can only spring from the serene harp. An otherworldly magic shone through in Mr. Levitan's performance of both the accompanying and solo harp parts. The audience was treated to a show of musicianship when a loud bang was heard coming from the stage area and failed to cause disruption in music. The harp had popped a string. As Mr. Levitan replaced the string on stage after the conclusion of the piece, concertmaster Kathleen Comalli Dillon commented on the process.

The repair completed, the Orchestra continued with Ravel's “Introduction and Allegro,” a piece commissioned in 1904 by a harp manufacturer to demonstrate the special qualities of the new double-action pedal harp. The conductor explained to the audience that what we heard was a later orchestration of the piece, performed on a very different instrument. Originally composed as a septet, the work is often referred to as a mini-concerto, since the harp is so prominently featured. The harp was the belle of the ball, Mr. Levitan filling the hall with its magical allure, and beautifully accompanied by the Orchestra.

Opening the second half was Poulenc’s “Two Marches and an Interlude,” composed in 1937 to accompany a dinner in an exhibition hall. Mr. Ramadanoff explained that the first “course” is the most conservative, a simple march with little dissonance – the “sherbet and coffee,” he suggested. The second movement is more rustic, something that might have accompanied a provincial “cheese course,” and the third is the most modern of the three movements, in which dissonance takes center stage. In the program notes, VSO board member Mary Eichbauer explains that the first movement of the Poulenc work, “March 1889,” evokes a cheerful nostalgia for the Belle Époque period, whereas the concluding “March 1937” is much darker. Ultimately I found Karl Ekholm's bassoon playing in the third movement to be the most expressive element, evoking a powerful sense of intense contemplation.

Following the Poulenc was Honegger's 1920 “Spring Pastoral.” Once again, as in the opening Bartok dances, the music was intensely evocative, precisely played and with tremendous unity among the orchestral sections; yet it felt restrained in its overall ambience. The piece opens with a quiet melodic humming from the strings, followed by a moaning, low-level horn theme, performed by Meredith Brown. The lulling melody evokes an image of soaring over a pastoral scene. At one point, as the melody line was taken up by the clarinet and passed to the flute, a refreshing interlude of beauty suddenly interrupted the otherwise subdued tone of the day.

The concert concluded with Ibert's unusual and dissonant “Divertissement.” The musical score for an 1851 play, “An Italian Straw Hat”, inspired the piece. Here two lovers are compromised when a passing horse munches on the lady's hat that she has left resting on a neighboring bush. Appropriately, the music is surprising, uncomfortable and unpleasant.

From the start, the piece is rebellious in nature, defying conventions with its off-handed cacophony. Ms. Eichbauer sums it up in her description of the fourth “Valse” movement: “cleverly orchestrated, but always on the edge of annoying... a cymbal crash is funny for being over the top, and the trombone can't stop laughing.” The conductor had another way of describing the seemingly nonsensical work. “A little bit of tongue-sticking-out,” he suggested, referring to the jokester style that is prevalent in this as well as many of the composer's works. The conductor also noted the prankish sound of the piano toward the end of the piece, where he imagines Ibert “assaults the piano with his fists or elbows.” Even in its conclusion, the “Divertissement” seems to hold back from ever quite satisfying its mischievously sustained tension.

Before Mr. Ramadanoff left the stage at the end, several fans presenting him with a bouquet so elaborate that he felt compelled, with apologies to the givers, to dismantle the bouquet and share its blossoms with each of the musicians.

Dr. Thomas Snyder spoke of the conductor: “You came here in 1983 to lead a group of dedicated amateur musicians. They are now a group of dedicated, talented professionals. You have thrilled us and inspired us with your consummate musicianship.”

On Sept. 20 the Vallejo Symphony will open its 84th season with a concert at which the first of three conductor candidates will lead the orchestra in a program of his choosing. Thomas Heuser, music director of the Idaho Falls Symphony since 2011, will conduct the Sept. 20 concert.