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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.