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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...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
ChamberFest Seven - Sonoma State University / Sunday, June 26, 2016
Santa Rosa Symphony. Jeffrey Kahane, conductor. Jon Kimura Parker and Jeffrey Kahane, piano; David Shifrin, clarinet; Benjamin Jaber, horn; Paul Neubauer, viola; Benjamin Bellman, violin

Pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Jeffery Kahane and the SR Symphony in Weill Hall June 26

CHAMBERFEST ENDS WITH SUMPTUOUS ALL-MOZART CONCERT IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 26, 2016

SSU’s ChamberFest concluded its second season June 26 with what was predicted to be a capstone concert, the last in a sterling series of seven devoted to Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. And the all-Mozart concert in Weill Hall came close to being the most memorable of all, but not quite.

Before an appreciative audience of 1,000 and a large compliment of Green Music Center benefactors and CSU officials, two works comprised the first half and were the afternoon’s triumphs. David Shifrin was the soloist in the A Major Clarinet Concerto, K. 622, playing an elongated instrument and with lovely controlled phrasing, and easily fitting conductor Jeffrey Kahane’s judicious tempos with a reduced-personnel Santa Rosa Symphony.

In this work the wind section, especially the bassoons of Carla Wilson and Shawn Jones, negated the need for brass and timpani, and Mr. Shifrin’s rich bottom register carried well, and he nailed the notes in the big leaps. This clarity and protracted phrasing also characterized the lament of the Adagio, recalling the music of Mozart’s “Grand Partita” in palpable longing and variety of expression. The return of the first theme in pianissimo was captivating, and the clarinetist’s full tone was never harsh or coarse. He alternated masterfully staccato notes with a seamless legato in the finale. The applause was robust.

Concluding the first half violinist Benjamin Beilman joined colleague violist Paul Neubauer in the E-Flat Major Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364, again ably conducted by Mr. Kahane. Here horns were added to the mix and the long introduction to the soloist’s entry presages a special experience. And so it was, the soaring themes and exquisite instrumental blend brought the word “sublime” to mind.

In the Andante longer unison duos, often over horns, prevailed, and Mr. Neubauer’s rich low register sang out. He often deferred to Mr. Beilman with his eyes, but never with his bow. In the cadenza there was a quasi question-and-answer interchange with impeccable instrumental concordance, perhaps bringing a tear of joy to some eyes. It was simply radiant playing from the duo that reflected either copious rehearsal, or consummates artistry, or both.

The Presto finale was never too fast and Br. Beilman’s thin but often brilliant sound stood out from the orchestral fabric. It was a glorious performance of two voices as one, and elicited a standing ovation.

Conducting sans baton the entire afternoon, Mr. Kahane drew focused and supportive playing from the 26-musican orchestra, and long-time observers of his podium work (at least from his tenure at the SR Symphony) noticed stylistic changes. There is now less total body podium movement and his deft direction now comes from eye, head and evocative hand movements. He clearly knows how to command an ensemble and obtain the sonic balances he wishes.

The two works after intermission, a horn concerto (K. 412/K. 514) and the sterling E-Flat Major two piano concerto, were both effective and convincing but had less exalted performances than the first-half works. In the short two-movement D Major horn work soloist Benjamin Jaber played capably but with a muffled sound in scales and limited virtuosity and thematic projection. However, Mr. Jaber endeared himself to the audience with his stage presence: scoping out sections of the hall, flipping a black shoulder cloth right and left, and exhibiting harmless gestures with his uncommonly not shiny instrument.

Finishing the concert and ChamberFest was the K. 365 Concerto, to many the best two-piano with orchestra work ever composed. The lids were off both concert pianos and Jon Kimura Parker and Mr. Kahane (conducting from the piano stage left) did artistic battle with the seminal score, flügel a flügel.

Cutoffs throughout were quick and tempos always fast, but it’s a work that can accept such a quick pace. The danger with fast tempos, especially from Mr. Kahane’s pianism, is blurring in scale passages. After five years in Weill it’s no secret to performers that capturing a clear legato in chamber music is difficult, the opposite of symphonic music (the balcony is best) and most solo piano and violin recitals.

A highlight of the piece was the fetching and harmonically daring Andante with stellar long-phrase playing from oboist Laura Reynolds, flutist Stacey Pelinka and Ms. Wilson’s bassoon. Here instrumental detail was distinctly heard.

The excitement of the concluding Rondo was diminished by too much speed for the needed clarity, and a surprisingly underplayed cadenza. It’s a place for some pianistic showmanship, and in the ascending three sets of 11-note groups for each piano just before the end there wasn’t spark and growl to the soloist’s performance. Obviously on this occasion Mr. Kahane and Mr. Kimura Parker wanted a seamless and symmetrical rendition of Mozart’s magical score, but the most resplendent moments were from the composer and not the soloists. Sui generis.

Audience reaction was immediate and intense, with loud “bravos” and multiple curtain calls. It was also an outpouring of gratitude for Mr. Kahane’s visionary artistic accomplishment with ChamberFest.

Sonia Morse Tubridy contributed to this review.