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Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Sunday, February 28, 2016
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Robert BelinIc, guitar

Guitarist Robert Belinic

SERIOUS MARIN MUSIC ON OSCAR NIGHT

by Kate Gilpin
Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Marin Symphony once again demonstrated Feb. 28 its consistent excellence with its Masterworks 2 program, the “Romance of Rodrigo.” The program was performed for an audience that filled most of the 2,000-seat Marin Center Auditorium included Rodrigo’s popular Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) and two Brahms works, the E Minor Symphony and the Op. 81 Tragic Overture.

Conductor Alasdair Neale noted in his introductory remarks, along with the promise that the audience would be home in time to critique the dresses at the Oscar awards ceremonies, that the afternoon’s program was “unapologetically serious,” which was certainly true, but the trio of works also provided the audience with a generous share of hope and spirit.

Brahms’ 1881 work was written in the same summer as the Academic Festival Overture, and was to some extent intended as a melancholy foil to the much brighter Academic Festival piece. The composer famously remarked that “one laughs while the other weeps.” The work’s three sections (Allegro ma non troppo, Molto più moderato, Tempo primo ma tranquillo) begin with a dramatic, full-orchestra two-chord statement (the “hammer blow”) and moves tumultuously on its way to establishing the D minor key that characterizes the entire work. Moving through the first theme, horns and strings give way to a second theme in which the strings predominate, then a return to the full-orchestra opening theme. The development echoes the earlier section, but with a difference, and woodwinds are featured. The final section is relatively short, but includes a return to the opening theme and a chorale that includes the horns, trombones, and tuba. The work ends with an extended coda. This performance proved a seamless connection between the various orchestra sections, and the audience signaled its enthusiasm with resounding and extended applause.

Rodrigo’s Concerto, a beautiful guitar work inspired by the splendid gardens of an eighteenth-century royal Spanish palace, was performed by Croatian guitarist Robert Belinić. The soloist played with a sensitivity, fire and virtuosity that was powerfully impressive.

The concerto, whose movements are Allegro con spirito, Adagio, Allegro gentile, begins with a joyous and elegant solo guitar theme suggesting flamenco. The orchestra enters delicately with the woodwinds, followed by strings and, later, subtle trumpets, and a cello solo. The orchestra is never allowed to overwhelm the solo instrument, with the result that they complement each other perfectly, in a wonderfully playful conversation, finally ending in a subdued finish that suggests a procession that has moved on.

The Adagio, famous in its own right and made more so by the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis’ interpretation decades back, begins, as in the first movement, with a repeated arpeggio for guitar that introduces the melody, taken then by the English horn. The theme is deeply melancholy, repeated by the guitarist, and followed by a dialogue between the two instruments while the strings accompany. Over the course of the movement the theme becomes both more highly ornamented and more emotionally intense, with an underlying insistent beat that suggests tragic inevitability, culminating in a cadenza of great passion. The orchestra re-enters, and the movement ends in quiet resignation. The Allegro gentile returns to the mood of the first movement in being very spirited, again starting with a solo and inviting the orchestra to join. The movement consists of two main themes, both sunny and refined, and ends on a repeated whimsical single note of the guitar. Throughout the concerto Mr. Belinić displayed technical proficiency combined with emotional commitment that was clear in every measure, and the audience responded with a standing ovation. There was no encore from the soloist.

Following intermission Mr. Neale again addressed the audience to dedicate this performance of the Brahms Fourth to his teacher Otto-Werner Mueller, who had died only two days before.

Brahms’s Fourth is never truly jocular (this symphony was first performed in the year that premiered Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado), but in his last symphony is always profound. The Allegro non Troppofirst movement is in traditional sonata form, but with themes that are of a richly Romantic nature, expressing a sense of the sorrow and dignity of the human condition. The second movement (Andante moderato) moves to the major tonality, but also uses modal harmonies that are haunting.

The third movement is unique in the Brahms symphonies by having a genuine scherzo, but even here, in C major, the expression seems more triumphant than light-hearted, and includes more serious musical ideas as well. Last, the Allegro energico e passionate has the quality of theme and variations, with beautiful playing by the separate orchestra sections and a variety of soloists. This finale is an emotional tour de force, and the Marin Symphony delivered the composer’s message darkly and deeply, with consummate artistry. The audience applauded after each movement but at the work’s 1885 premiere, attended by the composer, the Meiningen, Germany, audience applauded after each movement.