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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 it’s 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 Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s 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 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s 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 Rossini’s “William Tell” 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 Philharmonic’s 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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, February 21, 2016
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Rachel Barton Pine, violin

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine

EVER WESTWARD ETERNAL RIDER

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 21, 2016

Like her violin virtuoso colleagues, Rachel Barton Pine can make herself heard above the din of a full orchestra without noticeable effort; but what made her Feb. 21 performance with the Santa Rosa Symphony memorable was how softly she played. Although she dispatched the forte and fortissimo passages in the Beethoven D Major concerto with élan, her intensity increased markedly the softer she became. The most gripping points in each movement were the trills and other filigrees in the upper registers, which she played on the very edge of audibility to a rapt Weill Hall audience.

Any musician can play loudly, but those who can play quietly without any loss of energy or tempo are rare indeed. By the same token, any competent soloist can play all the notes of the Beethoven concerto, but those who can make sense of them and express their meaning are few. In this department, Pine was somewhat lacking. She hit all the notes, to be sure, but her performance was occasionally choppy and lacked fluidity.

Instead of merging one phrase or musical idea into the next, Ms. Pine often separated them, disrupting the forward motion and draining some of the drama. More often than not, however, the beauty of individual passages shone through. Her cadenza for the first movement was a treat, as was the lovely duet with bassoonist Carla Wilson in the slow movement. Ms. Pine seemed finally to relax in the playful finale, which was marked by a forceful and convincing drive to the conclusion.

The applause was significant, so the violinist obliged with an encore: the Andante from Bach’s second sonata for unaccompanied violin. Here again the pianissimo was bewitching, and it combined with a steady pulse on the lower strings to ravishing effect.

More ravishment appeared in the second half, in the form of Bruckner’s unfinished Symphony No. 9. This colossal work lasts over an hour, and that’s just for the first three movements. Who knows how long it would have been had Bruckner lived to complete the finale?

Ultimately, time is immaterial in Bruckner’s final work. The structure he employs in all three movements resembles nothing so much as a series of ocean waves, beginning in a valley and rising inexorably to a peak before crashing down again. The ascents and descents are most often chromatic, with a lushly romantic aura: chromanticism. Bruckner’s technique may be chromantic, but his content is most often dark and dramatic, even sinister. He incessantly combines and recombines short motifs that lead ever onward. His quest seems to be for some deep, hidden meaning in the world of sound.

Conductor Bruno Ferrandis displayed a firm grasp of Bruckner’s score, carefully guiding his players through the various phrases, crescendos and decrescendos, accelerandos and ritards. He most often conducted with two symmetrical hands, drawing out a foreboding, intense and elemental sound.

The first movement was spine-tingling, resolving in the home key at the very peak of a wave. The intensity only increased in the second, which features a devilish seven-note figure--a triplet and four march steps on a single note--that Gustav Holst later appropriated for the Mars section of “The Planets.” In Holst, the figure conjures up the god of war, but here it seemed a symbol of onrushing fate. Again, Mr. Ferrandis and company played the score to maximum effect, creating a tremendous, fiery sound with sustained energy.

The third movement proved even more gripping. The playing was muscular and assured, and the orchestration was dazzling. The conductor kept all the iterations of the theme intact, leading to a startling dissonant chord that resolves into a serene passage at the end.

The performance was one of the Symphony’s most profound efforts in recent years, rivaling anything they’ve done in that time. An otherwise unremarkable Sunday afternoon turned into a thrilling exploration of uncharted musical territory, filled with both apocalyptic fury and rays of hope.