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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...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
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.