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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
Marin Center / Saturday, March 12, 2016
Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra. Boguslaw David, conductor. Marcin Koziak, piano; Agata Szymczewska, violin

Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra

BEETHOVEN'S SYMPHONIC DRAMA PERVADES POLISH ORCHESTRA'S MARIN CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 12, 2016

European orchestras on an American tour face a pesky single concert program decision – popular or provocative repertoire? The Polish Baltic Philharmonic landed squarely March 12 on the first option, a conventional all-Beethoven afternoon.

A Marin Center audience of 900 in San Rafael heard the 55 musicians from Warsaw in the concert’s opening Egmont Overture, Op. 84. It was a performance that caught the somber drama of the nine-minute work, and drama was the operative word for the entire concert. Acoustics in the fan-shaped hall always sound to me direct and with minimal reverberation, and strong upper string power in the Egmont often covered cellos and basses.

Conductor Boguslaw David moved the Overture briskly, and that tempo continued with the E-Flat Piano Concerto, Op. 73, that closed the first half. Marcin Koziak gave an impressive but mostly routine reading of the solo part. Performances of the “Emperor” Concerto seem to fall between the architectural and fastidious, and the heroic and heaven storming. My interest has always centered on the latter, and Mr. Koziak’s view this day stressed the symmetry and cohesive aspects of the score and left sonorous voice leading and pianistic energy alone. Heavens were never approached.

In the Allegro the music proceeded in an animated manner with Mr. Marzin playing half-pedaled runs, fast trills, several intriguing inner voices and the less than ferocious 12 big repeated chords mid way. Duos with oboe and bassoon were lovely, and the horn volume was assured. The short cadenza with bright three-note trills led into a fast-paced long coda where horn color was foremost and dramatic impact was robust.

Mr. David moved along the spiritual Adagio in many long descending phrases that on balance needed more relaxation between cantabile and the many short crescendo sections.

The same approach continued in the finale, the pianist sticking to the score (no leaning on ritards or left-hand octave doublings) and the conductor staying safe with a stable tempo and smooth orchestra textures. It was a well-rehearsed and convincing “Emperor” that had a taste of the prosaic.

Histrionics are part of the monumental C Minor Symphony (Fifth), and Mr. David drew from his Orchestra a performance that was both muscular and impeccably played. Conducting from score as he did throughout, Mr. David’ s driving interpretation highlighted the compressed themes and sharply etched groups of the three famous quick notes and the one that is louder, longer and lower in pitch. The character here was urgent and violent. Though never really quiet, the second movement’s best moments were with the interplay of soft, long-held notes from the oboe, flute, clarinet and bassoon. Sitting stage right, the cellos finally were heard with their inherent richness. The conductor’s control of dynamics was deft and always careful.

In the final two Allegro movements, especially the last one, the march-like rhythms held sway and the many false cadences demonstrated the composer’s genius of extravagant symphonic power and mastery.
Mr. David is not a flamboyant conductor in physical podium movement, but he kept the boisterous finale away from raged attacks and releases, and thus the impact on the audience was predictable but no less potent.

A rainy afternoon moved some in the spacious hall toward a quick exit, but the conductor commandeered a stage microphone and in flawless English spoke about the Polish’s 42-concert US tour and the delight his ensemble was having with making music in so many venues. An encore followed, a minor key Dvorak waltz that was over too quickly.

Mr. David coquettishly said from the stage that there would be one more, and that it would be familiar. And it was, a raucous performance of Souza’s Stars and Stripes Forever that generated an additional standing ovation.