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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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.