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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...
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
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Monday, April 04, 2016
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor.. Zuill Bailey, cello; Bonnie Brooks, mezzo-soprano

Conductor Bruno Ferrandis

COLORFUL FALLA AND PROVOCATIVE BRITTEN WORKS IN SRS WEILL HALL CONCERTS

by Terry McNeill
Monday, April 04, 2016

Current fashion in orchestra season marketing showcases themes, and it’s de rigueur now, from the fledgling Sonoma County Philharmonic to the august San Francisco Symphony. Some of these themes are inane, but the Santa Rosa Symphony’s set of three concerts beginning April 2, with the event title “Rhythmic Vitality,” was singularly appropriate.

In the April 4 Weill Hall concert Britten’s Cello Symphony (Op. 68) and Falla’s complete music from the ballet “The Three Cornered Hat” had rhythmic interest by the truckload. With cellist Zuill Bailey performing the demanding but often introspective solo, the Britten work from 1963 was provocative. It’s constructed in an unusual format of four movements, the final two linked by an instrumental cadenza, and though loved by virtuosos it has not been popular with the public.

Mr. Bailey made a strong case for the Symphony, working with conductor Bruno Ferrandis to considerable effect. It needs to be said that this is a difficult piece to initially like, and much audience reaction in the lobby at intermission seemed to confirm this. Surprisingly the soloist used both a microphone and a score, playing much of the work with little vibrato that allowed the upper register partials to clearly sound. One needed to look elsewhere for easy tunes, and Mr. Bailey, who I have admired in recent Napa and San Rafael performances, was at his best in the ruminating first-movement phrases and slashing attacks over flute and bassoon parts, and a knockout cadenza. From a balcony seat the cello tone sounded muddy and indistinct at places, contrasting with the lucid and sonorous orchestra.

Much low-drone cello playing and extended vibrato was heard in the short Presto and and the musical sun came out in the finale. Here the music rises to a luminous finish, and perhaps audience comprehension leading to a standing ovation.

Falla’s wonderful 1919 Ballet score received a performance of orchestral color and sparkling effects. The audience of 950 seemed to physically move with the unfolding of piquant Andalusian folk tunes and brassy sway, something foreign in the Britten. The music throughout suppresses string importance (save for bass and cello) and is a tour de force for winds. There was lovely playing from the clarinet (Roy Zajac), bassoon (Carla Wilson), oboist Laura Reynolds and Stacy Pelinka’s piccolo.

Mr. Ferrandis drew some exceptional Spanish colors from his orchestra, shaping the clarinet and harp (Dan Levitan) duo, the abbreviated piano parts and a scintillating pizzicato accelerando in the Sequidillas section. This piece needs the sure hand that Mr. Ferrandis has, always the picture of control and energy on the podium. The two passages for voice, totaling just 85 seconds, were sung by mezzo-soprano Bonnie Brooks, and past without much notice in the lush 40-minute composition

Opening the concert was New York composer Daniel Brewbaker’s Blue Fire, a 15-minute exploration of contrast and instrumental tint. The composer was in attendance and took three curtain calls, and spoke elegantly during the pre-concert talk alongside Mr. Bailey and Mr. Ferrandis. The 2013 premiere was at a Napa Valley summer festival

As with many freshly-minted orchestra works, it was heavy with loud timpani and brass, but there were rhapsodic and lyrical sections with echoes of Bernstein and movie scores. Movements (I counted two) are constantly shifting, with standout parts for tuba (Scott Choate), Ms. Reynold’s oboe and Mr. Zajac. The percussion and timpani sections were busy and chimes and marimba parts were distinct, unlike an inaudible piano part. Often in newer music the pianist can be seen but not heard.

Blue Fire ended with a long and orderly climax in the strings, a counterpoint to the frequent previous offbeat brass phrases and insistent incisive rhythms. As with the balance of the program it was Mt. Ferrandis’ triumph, his diligent command directing every facet of the music.