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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
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.]