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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...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
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...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Vadim Gluzman, violin

Composer Dmitry Shostakovich

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 concerto, and culminated in a magnificent performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, also known as “The Year 1905.”

Where to begin? Why not with an actual Slav, violin soloist Vadim Gluzman? Born in Soviet Ukraine in 1973, Gluzman has since moved to Israel and is basking in the confident middle portion of a distinguished career. An Isaac Stern protégé with impeccable credentials, Gluzman is one of the world’s best violinists and one of its most sensitive musicians.

Mr. Gluzman’s technique is staggering; his intonation knife-edge precise; his tone gorgeous; his fluidity incomparable; his vibrato expressive; his musicality complete--but what impresses the most is his full engagement with the performance, the orchestra and the audience.

Mr. Gluzman is not someone to stand still and fiddle. Instead, he paces constantly, at times settling in front of the orchestra for virtuosic passages, but just as often drifting in front of the conductor to synchronize his bowing and articulation with the strings. Indeed, at the end of the first movement of Prokofiev’s dazzling concerto, Gluzman led the cellos and violas in their concluding bars.

From start to finish, the artist was in command. His sound rose easily above the orchestra; even his pizzicato could be heard over the basses and bassoons. His phrasing was exquisite, and he often marked the ends of phrases with dramatic flourishes of his bow. His intensity built throughout the concerto, culminating in the ecstatic rondo of the finale, complete with castanets. The ovation was immediate, but sadly no encore was offered.

Before the Prokofiev, the orchestra breezed through Khachaturian’s rollicking ballet, “Masquerade.” Ferrandis established a sprightly tempo, and the orchestra responded in kind. The only performance glitch in the five-movement suite occurred in the second movement, where concertmaster Joseph Edelberg’s extended violin solos were often drowned out by the horns. Perhaps Mr. Edelberg could have stood up to make his sound more prominent.

After intermission, the Symphony’s Executive Director, Alan Silow, emerged on the stage to bid a fond farewell to Ferrandis at the end of his final full season with the orchestra, which he has led since 2006. Once again the audience rose to its feet to give Ferrandis a well-deserved ovation. He has definitely increased the orchestra’s musical caliber over the last decade, but his greatest contribution has been the inclusion of more contemporary repertoire.

Shostakovich isn’t exactly contemporary (he’s been dead for 40 years), but much of his music feels as if it could have been written yesterday. Such is the case with his 11th symphony, which concluded the program in stirring fashion. The symphony may be called “The Year 1905,” but it could just as easily be titled “The Year 2017.”

According to th composer the symphony depicts the “Bloody Sunday” massacre on Jan. 9, 1905, in front of the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, along with its aftermath. The first movement, “The Palace Square,” depicts impoverished workers gathering in front of the palace to plead for help. The unprovoked massacre of the workers is characterized in the second movement, “The Ninth of January,” and the subsequent grieving in the third, “In Memoriam.” The final movement, “Tocsin” (alarm), underscores the rising spirit of revolution.

Armed with this detailed program, listeners familiar with Russian history can indeed conjure up images of the Winter Palace, the massacre, the grieving and the pending revolution while listening to the symphony. But that’s a limiting proposition. As evidenced by Sunday’s performance, the symphony is universal in its depiction of human suffering, political horrors and the ultimate possibility of redemption. Shostakovich himself said that it could as easily depict the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Tension is the watchword of “The Palace Square.”Mr. Ferrandis and the orchestra began quietly with a minor, bass-heavy theme and held steady during a long crescendo, hewing to precise dynamics and tempi throughout. Evocative trumpet and horn solos added to the sense of growing unease, which suddenly morphed into full-fledged conflict, as indicated by the furious cello runs at the attaca opening of “The Ninth of January.”

Within short order, the conductor led a tremendous build-up to a dense layer of sound--yet every part was audible. The momentum was inescapable, particularly when the snare drum announced the start of a massive fugue during which Mr. Ferrandis jumped up and down on the podium. It was controlled chaos.

“In Memoriam” began memorably with a plangent solo from the viola section and continued with a variety of elegiac passages from the rest of the orchestra. The sound was incredibly full, thanks in part to the wonderful acoustics in Weill Hall. The playing was masterful and beautiful across the orchestra.

The famed contemporary music group “Alarm Will Sound” might want to change its name if they ever perform “Tocsin,” where alarms have no futurity; they go off very much in the present from the beginning to the end of this astonishing movement. The orchestra played the heavily syncopated score with searing intensity. The strings in particular bowed with propulsive force, leading the relentless march to … a haunting, brooding English horn solo by Jesse Barrett. Yes, Shostakovich somehow manages to pull the plug before the contrabassoon leads into a no-holds-barred finale. This produced yet another standing ovation--the third of the day.