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SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, October 30, 2016
Marc Taddei, conductor. Sara Davis Buechner, piano

Conductor Marc Taddei

TADDEI TRIUMPH IN VSO SEASON OPENING CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, October 30, 2016

Vallejo Symphony Orchestra's guest soloist Sara Davis Buechner wowed her audience Oct. 30 in a stellar performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, the second of three pieces comprising the symphony’s season-opening performance in Hogan Auditorium and the debut of its new music director, Marc Taddei.

Mr. Taddei led the orchestra in a stunning performance of Haydn’s Sixth Symphony (Le Matin or “Morning”) Hob 1:6, followed by the Prokofiev and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, Op. 82.

“This program launches a season that has a number of distinct links,” Mr. Taddei explained to the audience. Haydn’s Symphony is the first of the composer’s three time-of-day symphonies, each of which will be featured in a different concert this season, and the Prokofiev concerto is one of the season’s three modern Russian concertos. The Sibelius E-Flat symphony belongs in the category of “masterpieces of the symphonic repertoire,” as Mr. Taddei describes it, and two others that he has placed such a group are Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, which he says is the most important symphony ever written, and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique.”

The Orchestra sounded especially accomplished the opening Adagio-Allegro movement of the Haydn where slow crescendos and delicate flute and oboe sections introduce a gentle, spirited theme. The effect seemed lulling with delicate playing to the attentive audience while subtly but craftily planting seeds for the developments to come. In the second movement Adagio Andante the violins began to assert their voices in short solo segments, interspersed with colorful accompaniment by various sections. The music’s effect grew to a happy dancing climax that included particularly expressive playing from the cellos.

The highlight of the third (Minuet) movement’s performance was the interplay of bass and bassoon, something that sounded quite novel with provocative harmonies. In the Finale – Allegro movement there was lovely flute playing from Melanie Keller, reminiscent of earlier themes, and a return to cheerful concluding string phrases and a peaceful conclusion.

The Prokofiev C Major Concerto performance featured jaw-dropping virtuosity by Ms. Buechner that was both brilliant and oddly lacking volume at critical places in the score from 1921. Castanets, rarely a part of classical music, often sounded distractingly loud. As the music moved into the Theme and Variations and finale Allegro movements Ms. Buechner easily mastered the difficult accelerating passages. While there may have been moments during the 20-minute performance where soloist and orchestra balances were askew, especially in tricky rhythmic passages, the audience was swept away by the pianist’s luminous playing and sonorous power.

The program finished with Sibelius’ Fifth, described by Mr. Taddei as containing a mysterious, frenzied buzzing, and is punctuated with horns reminiscent of swans honking in flight, making the piece distinctly rich in sounds from nature. The “swan theme” is perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the work, and for Mr. Taddei “it’s just a very romantic piece and has such an interesting structure. It’s (a cornerstone of) early modernism.”

The work is indeed rife with buzzing from the string sections, covered with distinct, affecting horn playing in the opening Moderrato-Allegro-Presto movement. The conductor drew rich sound from the strings that was combined with sterling horn playing (Meredith Brown, principal) and elegant phrasing from bassoonist Karla Ekholm. A distinct marching beat developed in the second movement (Andante Mosso), mirroring rhythms in the horns. Just before the Symphony’s conclusion there came a surprising moment of solemnity, marked “Misterioso” in the score, that subsequently burst into a victorious finish.

During the conductor’s “Meet the Music” talk before the performance Mr. Taddei explained many of the technical aspects of the concert’s selections, punctuated with short audio clips, and also offered some interesting cultural and historical contexts for the pieces.

The VSO’s next concert is Jan. 29 and features cellist Zlatomir Fung in Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, and Haydn’s “Noon” Symphony (No. 7) and Beethoven’s Op. 55 “Eroica.”