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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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 REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, March 26, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Joseph Edelberg, violin; Elizabeth Prior, viola; Adelle-Akiko Kearns, cello

Composer Alan Hovhannes

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 Prior) shared the stage for a dazzling performance of Mozart’s much-loved Sinfonia Concertante; and the cellist (Adelle-Akiko Kearns) was the soloist for Gabriel Fauré’s rarely heard Élegie.

Edelberg and Prior could not be more different as players. He stands ramrod straight; she sways back and forth. He plays the notes as written; she injects a little rubato when given the opportunity. His tone is pure but restrained; hers is warm and flexible. Opposites, to be sure; but opposites attract. This was a duet of two distinctive voices that complemented each other instead of fighting.

The opening Allegro movement of the Sinfonia Concertante was delightfully brisk and well played by all concerned, but there were occasional balance problems and some intonation lapses. The cadenza was invigorating, leading to healthy applause--a welcome departure from tradition.

Balance problems disappeared in the sublimely quiet slow movement. The orchestra stayed well back as Edelberg and Prior wove their intricately entwined lines to maximum effect. They tapped straight into Mozart’s tragic mode, eliciting profound emotion. In contrast, the closing Presto was light and buoyant, and the exchange of lines between the soloists was electrifying.

There’s usually a reason certain pieces are rarely heard, and such is the case with Fauré’s Élegie. The cello part is lovely, and it was lovingly played by Kearns, but the orchestration is often clunky, and the piece wanders. The balance problems were also more pronounced than in the Sinfonia Concertante, even though a stage hand installed a microphone in front of the cello stand. Kearns has great vibrato, and her tone is often luscious, but she was frequently overpowered by the orchestra, particularly in the softer passages.

Kearns got a better chance to shine after intermission, when she played the frequent cello solos in Sibelius’s fourth symphony. After three lushly orchestrated, crowd-pleasing symphonies, Sibelius took a break with the fourth, opting for restraint instead of grandeur. The result is an austere masterwork suffused with concealed energy that rarely breaks loose.

Conductor Bruno Ferrandis is well versed in Sibelius’s intricate musical architecture, and he pushed forward relentlessly, never letting the orchestra shy away from the symphony’s exacting demands. Orchestral crescendos came and went repeatedly without ever bursting forth into full-throated song. One got the sense of a volcano waiting to burst forth but constrained in its depth. The eruption finally occurred near the end of the Largo third movement, where the orchestra let loose with a remarkable unanimity of sound.

The performance of the final movement, with its resounding bells and sheer diversity, was a model of pinpoint dynamics and locomotive drive. Most remarkable were the last few dozen bars, where the orchestra seems headed to an ear-shattering conclusion but instead fades out elegantly, receding back into the depths.

Last but not least were the concert’s bookends: Alan Hovhaness’s Meditation for Orpheus, at the beginning, and Sibelius’ Finlandia, at the end. The Hovanhess offered an unusual array of orchestral colors, none more resplendent than when the basses pluck ad lib, creating a dense cluster of sound. The basic structure is of a musical hot potato being passed back and forth between sections over a drone-like background. The piece is oddly static, but the sound is often memorable.

On the other end was Sibelius’s more-than-familiar Finlandia, a rousing finale seemingly inserted to counter the sotto voce ending of his fourth symphony. The playing was authoritative and the applause thunderous, causing a nearby patron to remark, “Now that’s an ending.”

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]