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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
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...
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...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
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.”