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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
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
Symphony
FUNG TRIUMPHS IN SHOSTAKOVICH CONCERTO WITH VSO
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented their season’s second concert Jan. 29 in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, devoted to early Haydn, middle Shostakovich and Beethoven’s ground-breaking “Eroica” Symphony. In remarks to the audiences of nearly 400, Conductor Marc Taddei characterized Haydn’s Sympho...
Symphony
SUBLIME MOZART CLARINET CONCERTO TOPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Sonoma County Philharmonic’s long history of featuring soloists from the neighborhood struck gold again Jan. 28 with a ravishing Mozart Clarinet Concerto performance with soloist Roy Zajac. Before an audience of 300 the Santa Rosa High School hall the A Major Concerto (K. 626) unfolded gracefully w...
Symphony
SYMPHONIC SPLENDOR AND HARP VIRTUOSITY AT SRS CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 07, 2017
A rainy winter Weill Hall audience of 800 heard the Santa Rosa Symphony Jan. 7 in an eclectic program of four composers including a provocative harp concerto. The music was preceded by manifold stage announcements and somber recognition of SRS musicians that had recently died. A rollicking performa...
Symphony
HEAR THE TOLLING OF THE BELLS--IRON BELLS!
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Thanks to the generosity of Don Green (as in Green Music Center), the Santa Rosa Symphony has for many years performed an annual choral program, usually during the holiday season. In keeping with this tradition, the orchestra and the SSU Symphonic Chorus featured Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony “The ...
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.