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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.