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SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, November 8, 2015
Christian Baldini, conductor. Carrie Hennessey, soprano

Conductor Christian Baldini

BALDINI LEADS VSO IN EXCITING NEW SATELLITE PIECE

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christian Baldini led the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra in a fun and varied concert Nov. 8, the VSO’s second concert of the 2015-2016 season in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium.

The composer of the first piece, U. C. Davis faculty member Mika Pelo, was present to witness this second performance of his newest work “Satellite,” which is dedicated to the conductor. The ultra-modern, sizzling response to a symphony by Mr. Pelo's muse Carl Nielsen was followed by a set of arias sung by soprano Carrie Hennessey. The concert concluded with Schumann's First Symphony, titled “Spring”.

Mr. Baldini is currently the director of the U.C. Davis Symphony and the Camellia Symphony in Sacramento, and is the second of three candidates vying this season for the position of music director at the VSO. Compared with the first candidate, Thomas Heuser, who conducted the opening concert in September, Mr. Baldini brought a more mature style and focused presentation to the music. The conductor speaks quickly and directly, yet one can sense a bridled enthusiasm beneath the succinct phrases as he speaks. “I would love to talk more about the history and meaning behind the Schumann symphony, but I had better move on or I will run out of time,” he apologized during his pre-concert talk.

“Satellite” struck me as typical in one sense, as the ultra-modern classical sound is distinctly set apart from traditional melodies and other sound progressions that classical music audiences are accustomed to hearing, and this piece fit that mold. Even the individual tonalities sound very new and different, using instruments in non-traditional ways. On the other hand, the piece is unique in its consistent message, and the parts are not scattered and its dry tension and rhythmic structure are compelling.

Commenting on his work, Mr. Pelo alluded to Nielsen, “…as an important part of my life for a long time. When Maestro Baldini asked me for a short orchestra piece, I decided to let Carl Nielsen inspire me once again.” Rather than expound on a theme from that composer’s Op. 35 Violin Sonata, Mr. Pelo focused on the inspiration he gleaned from the 1912 Sonata. “I studied it intensely for three minutes, then put it away. I doubt anyone will actually hear any Nielsen in my piece. I hope, however, that the listener may notice (the) unpredictable and even 'crazy' feature I find (to be) a constant in Nielsen's music, and that I love.” Mr. Baldini’s conducting conveyed a cohesive structure

In addition to comunicating a cohesive expression of feeling and structure, Mr. Baldini’s direction drove the orchestra's overall mastery and synchronicity. “Satellite” was the shining star of the afternoon, and the piece most perfectly and beautifully executed.

“Satellite” was followed by a trio of familiar arias, the first and most extraordinary being Verdi's “Tu che la vanità” from the opera Don Carlo. Ms. Hennessey, who has wowed audiences in her performances with the Vallejo Symphony and VSO Presents in the past, was extraordinary in her performance of the Verdi aria, and the orchestra matched her in virtuosity. It was a simply stunning performance. Two Mozart opera arias followed, “In quall eccessi, o Numi!...Mi readi quell’alma ingrate” from the 1787 Don Giovanni (K. 527), and the “E Susanna non vien... Dove sono” from the 1778 Marriage of Figaro. The Mozart arias were sung with grace and excellent emotion by the versatile and polished soprano.

The afternoon concert concluded with Schumann's B-Flat Major Symphony. Mr. Baldini spent considerable time during his pre-concert talk sharing some of the fascinating personal history behind the Schumann selection. Besides the obvious allusion to the melting of northern Germany's icy winter into much-awaited spring, he explained that the composition also corresponds to the events in Schumann's life at the time when he wrote it in 1841.

One notable feature of the “Spring” Symphony is a rolling in by waves of synchronized strings, which the orchestra mastered with smooth and gentle feeling. There is also a great deal of lush, romantic beauty in the piece, and the musicians expressed it all very well. While the most spellbinding portions of the piece were executed with polish, the orchestra was not quite so precise in its transitions. At times some instruments came in perceptibly late, and sound levels were not always well blended. Small surprises of exquisite beauty, subtle and delicate or powerful and vivid, occur throughout the work.

The final concert of the VSO season will feature conductor Marc Taddei and baritone Hadleigh Adams performing in Hogan works by Stravinsky, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Tickets are $35, with discounts available for seniors, students and groups. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 643-4441 or visit www.vallejosymphony.org.