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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...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.