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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...
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...
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...
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
A FIFTH CONTENDER ENTERS THE RING FOR THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 10, 2018
In these international times, what makes a piece of music American? For Michael Christie, the answer is that it needs to have at least premiered on these shores, if not been composed here. Thus the rationale for the “all American” program that Christie--the fifth and final conducting candidate for t...
Symphony
MONUMENTAL NIELSEN SYMPHONY CAPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT AT SR HS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Turning again away from conventional repertoire, the Sonoma County Philharmonic programmed Jan. 27 three works in what were local debut performances in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Op. 29, called “Inextinguishable,” closed the program with an extravaga...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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 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.”