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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital itís easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonicís Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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 Mendocinoís breezy bluff.

Conducted by Artistic Director Allan Pollack, Shostakovichís 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 ďpalm courtĒ saxophone part.

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

Even given the Orchestraís dynamic playing and catchy themes, the work quickly fades from memory. Not so with the Prokofiev 7th Symphony, the composerís last from 1952. Itís 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. Iíve 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 movementís conclusion, an acknowledgment of the Thomas Nugentís 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 finaleís boisterous march, and the connection to banal parts of the preceding Jazz Suite was palpable. Itís a loud movement in places, the sound distinct through the tentís 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 composerís 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 eveningís highlight.

Tchaikovsky ís 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 Allegroís stately themes and the conductorís 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. Sohnís 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 concertís best playing. The tempo here was brisk, but not so fast that coordination with the violinist was affected. Ms. Sohnís 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.