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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...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, May 03, 2015
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Abigail Fischer, mezzo-soprano. Women's Chorus of the SRS Honor Choir, Robert Worth, director, Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, Carol Menke, director

Mezzo soprano Abigail Fischer

SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY MASTERS MAHLER'S THIRD

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 03, 2015

Among Romantic symphonists, Mahler is the king of climaxes; he surges from one to the next orgiastically. His third symphony is a perfect example: It begins strong, fades to quietude, resurges to maximum amplitude, and repeats the process. For listeners willing to ride these waves, the experience can be unforgettable.

The Santa Rosa Symphony's performance of Mahler's epic work, in Weill Hall on a gloomy Sunday in early May, rewarded listeners amply. Under the inspired leadership of Bruno Ferrandis, the orchestra delivered a Mahler Third that remains etched in the mind.

The first notes, from no less than nine French horns, were bold, confident, and heraldic. The horns started loud and ended soft, punctuated by the beats of a huge bass drum on the other side of the stage. The notes rang out brightly, thanks in part to Weill Hall's superb acoustics. Only a slight discord on the top note marred the horn section's otherwise exemplary unison playing.

The horns dominated the long first movement, complemented by several gorgeous solos from principal trombonist Bruce Chrisp. Mahler marked the movement as "Strong, determined," and Ferrandis followed that instruction scrupulously. Despite the relatively slow pace and diversity of musical ideas, he marched the orchestra relentlessly forward. His movements on the podium were elegant and relaxed, a distinct change from earlier years when he seemed tense and high-strung.

An evocative offstage snare began the final section, which ended with a tremendous climax at top speed. It was hard to imagine what might follow, but the stage entry of Abigail Fischer, a young mezzo soprano, along with a women and children's choir that trooped into the choir loft behind the stage, marked an abrupt shift in mood. The second movement, a minuet, began slowly and quietly in the strings, with no brass in evidence. In the hands of the Symphony, the dance felt airy and graceful, with an effortlessly flowing theme.

The second movement morphed seamlessly into the third, marked "Without haste." Superb playing throughout the orchestra highlighted the many playful elements of this pastoral idyll, including bird calls and shimmering reflections. Most memorable, however, was an off-stage trumpet weaving in and out of the sonic fabric.

When the "Very slow" fourth movement began, Fischer finally rose from her seat and revealed her glorious voice. Over pianissimo strings, she glided into the rich, low opening words of Nietzsche's "Midnight song." "O Mensch! Gib Acht!" (Oh people, give heed) she sang, with excellent enunciation and a resonant tone. She made each note count.

Fischer continued standing to join with the chorus in the sprightly fifth movement, marked "Happy in tempo and impudent in expression." Here the children stood out, singing without score in purple dresses (girls) and white shirts (boys). Their bell-like voices were clearly audible above the black-clad women, many of whose faces were buried in scores that blocked their sound.

The über-climactic finale began magisterially in the strings, with the cellos carrying the melody. Ferrandis and the players were sensitive to the dynamics: Soft passages were truly soft, and loud ones swelled mightily. Mahler could go on forever, but he finally brings matters to a close with not one, not two, but three tremendous climaxes and a sustained ending that closes and opens repeatedly until at last settling on a final note.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice]