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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
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.