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Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 11, 2015
Allan Pollack, conductor. Livia Sohn, violin

Alan Pollack Cheers Livia Sohn July 11 (Nicholas Wilson Photo)

SPLASHY RUSSIAN MUSIC IN MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENER

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff.

Conducted by Artistic Director Allan Pollack, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2 was an exciting beginning, a three-movement work from the 1930s that takes raucous orchestration to its zenith. The composer is a master at this kind of music, melding into the rhythms snare drum and trombone solos with in the second movement a “palm court” saxophone part.

Mr. Pollack conducted without score and was able to easily move the music from a circus polka style of the familiar “Waltz 2” movement to a forceful quick ride march in the final “Dance 1.” Bravos from the audience ensued.

Even given the Orchestra’s dynamic playing and catchy themes, the work quickly fades from memory. Not so with the Prokofiev 7th Symphony, the composer’s last from 1952. It’s a curious work, similar to the 7th (and last) of Sibelius in its autumnal character. And there are two possible endings to the last movement, one with a mysterious fade to the bell song of the opening Moderato movement, and one with 22 additional bars of a gallop and pulsating conclusion. I’ve usually heard the former but Mr. Pollack chose the latter, and it worked well.

The noble first-movement theme in C-Sharp Minor was played majestically, the sonic balance good with shining brass contrasting with a lonely triangle part and lovely solos from clarinetist Eric Kritz. Before the lively Allegretto began a faint sound from a rock band from the nearby McCallum House Inn wedding party was heard in the tent, a casualty of how loud music can carry far at night across an ocean bluff. Some audience clapping followed this movement’s conclusion, an acknowledgment of the Thomas Nugent’s oboe playing and pungent trombone and trumpet lines.

The wistful slow Andante was deftly shaped by Mr. Pollack, the music moving through remote keys and graceful colors. Adding to this rich sonic fabric were soft harp arpeggios (Anna Maria Mendieta) and piquant triangle and xylophone playing. A fetching combination.

A lot is going on with the finale’s boisterous march, and the connection to banal parts of the preceding Jazz Suite was palpable. It’s a loud movement in places, the sound distinct through the tent’s direct (non reverb) acoustics. The conductor with his signature sweeping arm movements was able to carefully juxtapose the propulsive and often violent sections with the composer’s mellow nostalgia. It became a satisfying benediction.

Programming this Prokofiev Symphony was a brave choice for Mr. Pollack, and the results were for me the evening’s highlight.

Tchaikovsky ’s marvelous D Major violin concerto with soloist Livia Sohn completed the program. Although even more popular than the Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Brahms concertos, the Tchaikovsky has been seldom played on the North Coast, and the last time I recall it was a potent Marin Symphony performance in 2010 with Vadim Repin.

Thematic richness characterizes the Concerto from 1878, and Ms. Sohn made the most of the Allegro’s stately themes and the conductor’s choice of a slow tempo. The interpretation was not weighty and Ms. Sohn was content to emphasize lyricism, legato ascending scale passages and chaste ritards before delicately held top notes. In climaxes her sound was sporadically covered by the Orchestra, but the long cadenza was played with enough virtuosity, though limited in power, to bring most of the audience of 800 to its feet in an ovation. And it was just the first movement.

In the following Canzonetta Ms. Sohn’s control of pianissimo was assured during short duos with clarinet, oboe and flutists Mindy Rosenfelt and Kathleen Reynolds. The phrases were shaped with elegance and subtle charm.

Without pause the music drove into a lively Allegro vivicissimo, and Mr. Pollack drew from the Orchestra some of the concert’s best playing. The tempo here was brisk, but not so fast that coordination with the violinist was affected. Ms. Sohn’s light and fleet bow technique was well matched to this quintessential pyrotechnical finale, and surprisingly the low register violin sound was as persuasive as the famous splashy high notes.

Applause was long and loud, but no encore was offered.