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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
San Francisco Symphony / Thursday, April 16, 2015
Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor. Igor Levitt, piano

Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado

LUMINOUS SOUND IN SF SYMPHONY WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 16, 2015

Though the Santa Rosa Symphony is the Green Music Center’s resident orchestra, when the San Francisco Symphony plays Weill Hall they take total artistic ownership. In the penultimate of the four annual Bay Area run outs the SFS played a compelling program April 16 of four masterworks with flawless cohesion and virtuosity.

Using a reduced-size orchestra of no percussion and just three cellos and two basses conductor Pablo Heras-Casado directed a taut and balanced Haydn Symphony No. 44 in E Minor. In a style opposite of conductors Michael Tilson Thomas and Bruno Ferrandis Ms. Heras-Casado gets results with no baton and little body movement. The Symphony flowed elegantly from hornist Robert Wards first bucolic notes to a Presto finale that had just a touch of menace. The conductor’s deft control and precise string playing made the 1771 Haydn a refined experience, and not at all the “mourning” of the sobriquet.

Mozart’s sparkling E-Flat Major Concerto, K. 271, closed the first half with Russian pianist Igor Levit the soloist. As with the Haydn all was in place, Mr. Levit choosing a crisp and direct approach with rapid right-hand scales and a tempo to match. There were piquant solos by oboist Mingjia Liu and before the cadenza (by Mozart) a lovely piano-horn duo. This was chaste playing with not a hint of bravado or shaky rhythms.

In the plaintive Andantino Mr. Levit continuously used the shift pedal to echo the orchestra’s introspective phrases and his expressive and even trills were nonpareil. The playing in the finale was at times dramatic but never loud with concertmaster Alexander Barantschik’s violin line in a lovely “question and answer” correspondence with the pianist. Mr. Levit’s detaché touch in scales was masterly, as was his cross-hand technique and subtle accents in ascending passagework. The short ersatz solo cadenza and the urbane conducting combined to produce an assured and luminous performance.

Beautiful playing continued after intermission with Debussy’s Prélude à après d’un Faune, and flutist Tim Day’s playing of the languorous opening solo was ravishing. Mr. Heras-Casado was in ho hurry with this enchanting music, letting long phrases unfold from the clarinet, harp and horn players. This work was recently played on the same stage by the Santa Rosa Symphony in a performance of equal weight and intensity, if not quite the precision of the San Francisco players.

A full orchestra compliment was marshaled for the evenings’ last work, Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. It was a savvy program choice as the 1945 work is a feast of orchestra color and tricky rhythms. Stravinsky’s music of this period, leading into the contemporary “Symphony of Psalms,” is instantly recognizable from the raucous but eminently controlled syncopation and instrumental execution. Section control is critical here and Mr. Heras-Casado kept distinct sectional sound, the sonorous harp, bassoon, clarinet and piano parts always clear. Even in the laconic Andante, a polar opposite to the histrionic first and third movements, the conductor never let the pace become flaccid.

The Con Moto finale grows without an initial pause into a high-stepping march with a persuasive fugue starting from Robin Sutherland’s piano part and moving to several potent climaxes. The ensemble was immaculate with a boisterous champagne orgy of sound, drawing the audience of 900 to a standing ovation.

Though not technically in residence the San Francisco Symphony has become one of Weill Hall’s musical treasures, easily equal in artistry to the recent Vienna Philharmonic, Russian National and Suisse Romande orchestra performances.