Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
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
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.