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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...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
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...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, April 12, 2008
Bruno Ferrandis, conducting
Christopher O'Riley, piano

Christopher O'Riley

SONIC TATTOOS

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, April 12, 2008

In newspaper ads touting his appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Christopher O'Riley wore a black T-shirt, the better to show off a massive henna tattoo running the length of his arm, right down to the ends of his fingers. In his April 12 concert, the tattoo was no longer in evidence, but he did manage to tattoo the symphony's resident Steinway with some of the richest sounds to emerge from that instrument in a long time.

Clad in a knee-length black coat, O'Riley got right to work on Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece the Santa Rosa Symphony had never performed in its 80-year history. In a preconcert conversation with Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, O'Riley opined that the concerto ' Bart'k's last completed work ' evokes the sonic landscape of New York City in the 1940s, in distinct contrast to the rural folk inspirations of his other concertos.

O'Riley's playing was consistent with this interpretation. He began with emphatically disconnected notes, a collision of sounds without any apparent unity that sounded like the jarring street noises of Manhattan. Within a few measures, however, he smoothed out the edges and began playing with a seemingly effortless legato. He maintained this level of contrast throughout the concerto, altering his tone and attack in keeping with the music and the orchestra's exertions.

Cooperative Soloist

It is rare to see a soloist pay such careful attention to the conductor. O'Riley kept his eyes glued on Ferrandis and his expressive left arm during the constant rhythmic challenges of the first movement, meshing in perfect tempo and volume with the orchestra. Instead of 'piano versus orchestra,' the performance was a fused creation, an orchestriano.

The intensity of the first movement was matched by the serenity of the second. The performers not only kept the adagio pace without flagging, but they also fully invested the movement with the feeling of the second part of its tempo marking: 'religioso.' Despite barely moving his upper torso, O'Riley managed to get an enormous amount of sound out of the piano, intoning a series of resonant chords.

The allegro vivace last movement started a bit meekly but then caught fire after a muted section in the strings. O'Riley still didn't move much, but he seemed to be talking to himself, perhaps mouthing the intricate beats emanating from the podium. The run-up to the end was absolutely thrilling, with O'Riley sprinting from one end of the keyboard to the other, and Ferrandis jumping in the air. The standing ovation was immediate and sustained.

Ferrandis warmed up the audience with Jan''ek's overture to his opera From the House of the Dead, also a last work. Like the Bart'k concerto, Jan''ek's overture is suffused with rhythmic complexity. The orchestra followed Ferrandis' steady baton to a person, with nary a player out of step. Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg played the solo passages beautifully, joining his stand partner, Erin Benim, for some equally effective duets.

Acoustic Challenges

The only problem with the Jancek was the deadening acoustic of the Wells Fargo Center. Passages that should have rung out simply died somewhere between the low ceiling and the carpet. Audiences can only hope that the new Green Music Center ' still one or two years away ' will solve this nagging problem.

In the second half of the program, the familiar melodies and driving rhythms of Brahms' Symphony No. 1, Op. 68, put merely acoustic considerations aside. Ferrandis launched into the symphony with vigor, rotating his arms like pistons and fully extending his lengthy fingers. He conducted from a miniature score, which seemed to function strictly as a memory aid; he rarely consulted it, other than to turn pages.

As always, Ferrandis' podium antics were a joy to watch. He was in constant motion, using every square inch of the podium's surface, moving forward and back, side to side, and even leaning dangerously backward against the protective rail. He is a two-fisted conductor, conveying as much with the digits in his left hand as with the baton in his right. He has an angular fluidity that commands respect.

Brahms' first symphony is more than familiar, but I never grow tired of it. Of the many beautiful moments, the oboe, clarinet, and violin solos in the middle movements stood out, as did the pizzicato section at the beginning of the last. The energy in this final movement was particularly well-sustained, beginning with the pizzicato, moving through the brass-and-timpani fanfare, the melodic interplay of the woodwinds, the majestic closing theme, and then the headlong rush to the triumphant final chords. When it was over, Ferrandis had to mop his brow before turning to face the audience, which was once again on its feet.