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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, March 25, 2016
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. Kent Nagano, conductor. Daniil Trifonov, piano

Conductor Kent Nagano

CENTURY-OLD MUSIC REMAINS EXPLOSIVE IN EXTRAVAGANT WEILL CONCERT PERFORMANCE

by Nicki Bell
Friday, March 25, 2016

A spectacular performance of Debussy, Prokofiev and Stravinsky with a virtuoso orchestra and a brilliant pianist will long be remembered by the fortunate 1,000 in Weill Hall March 25. The Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal itself is huge, nearly 110 musicians, and it completely filled the stage and risers. The black outlines of two exquisite-looking harps, art nouveau furniture pieces in exotic woods, added a skyline above the violins. Kent Nagano, a precise and elegant conductor, drew a gorgeous and clear sound from the players throughout.

This was a fascinating program, the pieces all avant-garde in their time and still sound relevant today, and were composed roughly a century ago. Debussy’s Jeux opened, followed by Prokofiev’s C Major Concerto (No. 3) with the remarkable young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (Sacre du Printemps) was the expected powerful second half. Both Jeux and Rite were composed for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and premiered within weeks of each other in Paris in 1913.

Jeux depicts a garden at night (the ballet drew on golf, tennis and jazz postures and was not a hit) with short musical themes, one quickly following another, clarinets and harps opening the curtains on the bushes and brambles, light playing on leaves, a bouncing ball. A painting in sound, strokes of color, washes in sound that can trigger the imagination. The woodwinds called forth a playfulness in the music. Exquisite playing.

Prokofiev first started working on this Concerto while still a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and completed the work in 1921 and performed the solo part in Chicago the same year. A virtuoso pianist, the composer could play the herculean technical challenges he had written as of course Mr. Trifonov did here. The opening notes of clarinet merged with a lyrical and meandering string quality, and then the driving orchestra hijacks everything. These clarinet melodic notes become motovic material for the movement, and when the second theme joins both they were deftly enlarged and shaped by Mr. Nagano.

A theme and variations second movement brings out opposing character in the same musical material, and there is humor here as well as lush lyricism. The ostensibly quiet soloist had an animal character, moving like a cat stroking the keys and then mastering terrifying and crazy double octaves up and down the keyboard with joyful exuberance. He seemed to bounce up and down, his nose inches from the piano keys.

The third movement is a tour de forces with long legato string lines to a hair-raising coda that increased in energy with insistent orchestra rhythms, and the pianist played hand-over-hand until his digits became a blur. The audience of course went wild and the artist returned to the stage to play an outrageous and marvelous transcription of the Johann Strauss Overture to the opera “Die Fledermaus.” Mr. Trifonov is a mesmerizing pianist, part Liszt and part Glenn Gould, and his technique is off the charts, albeit with depth and sensitivity. Still at the beginning of a big career, he is also an upcoming composer.

As though this drama wasn’t sufficient, in the second half Stravinsky’s seminal work still shocks after a century. Inaugurating a new era in music, the performance riot it caused at the Paris opera is legendary. At that debut the audience outrage was so loud and prolonged that the onstage dancers could not hear the orchestra. The frenetic and propulsive score depicts a series of scenes from pagan rituals around the coming of spring, culminating in a chosen maiden dancing to her death. There are Russian folk tunes, incessant driving rhythms and potent syncopation that create a pulsating, throbbing machine of sound.

It was a perfect vehicle for admiring the resplendent Montreal ensemble’s mighty sonority, and under Mr. Nagano’s direction the piece never went off the tracks. It is a signature work for this orchestra, performed constantly for fifty years with many conductors.

The audience kept bringing Mr. Nagano back so often that he responded by leading two encores, the first being Debussy’s “Prelude de l’apres-midi d’un Faune.” It was lovely and seemed to have been waiting in the wings since Jeux. The playing of the solo flutist was captivating, setting the melodic tone as did clarinets in the Prokofiev and bassoons, clarinets and horns in Sacre. Peaceful and lush, it calmed the hall. Finally the concert closed with the delight of Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from the long forgotten stage play “L’Arlesienne.”

It was a stunning musical evening.