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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
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 22, 2017
Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Allan Pollack, conductor. Julie Kierstine, soprano;Donna Olson, also; Alex Boyer., tenor; Phil Meyer, bass

Verdi Requiem Performance July 22 in Festival Tent

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 rendering of Verdi’s 1874 (“Manzoni”) Requiem to the delight of an enthusiastic audience of 800 inside the white Tent erected on the spectacular Mendocino bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The laboring oars in this monumental effort were the four featured singers who rose mightily to the occasion. Their solo and ensemble singing were the wind in the sails of Verdi’s over-the-top theatrical score which made maximum use of his virtuosity as a writer of dramatic compositions. Operatics aside, the performance avoided bombast with a sensitive reading of dynamic contrast and sonic color. Amazingly, Mr. Pollack was able to keep orchestra, singers and chorus in a wonderful symbiotic balance where each could be heard, no one drowning the others out, even in the busiest sections.

The chorus was particularly well prepared for the long concert. Lyrics were clear and communicative, sections entered appropriately on cue and harmonies and dynamics always delivered to maximize dramatic effect as appropriate. One perhaps not so unusual observation was of a female member singing in one of the men’s sections. The voices were clearly put where they were best used. The double chorus had taken the better part of a year to master the complex Requiem and their hard work was rewarded with a mesmerizing performance.

The orchestra itself was full of seasoned and Festival emeritus musicians and their playing was the seabed upon which the entire effort was based. Steady when necessary and full of power and sensuality as needed, the orchestra contributed spectacularly to the musical whole. From the ancient and anchoring Dies Irae to the Tuba Mirum, with its offstage trumpeting (in this case outside the tent) Mr. Pollack managed to bring out the best in all the participants. Pacing was always appropriate and each piece that composed the whole carefully thought out. Mr. Pollack’s careful direction and engagement with his performers was apparent.

Julie Kierstine, soprano. Donna Olson, mezzo-soprano. Alex Boyer, tenor, and bass Phil Meyer gave soaring performances that held the audience in hushed awe, and the singing helped navigate the way through Verdi’s complex score. Playing lightly off each other at times, and giving full voice to compellingly dramatic sections made the performance one to remember.

The solemnity of a Catholic Requiem Mass can be overwhelming at times and the listener is likely to become reflective and sober in subsequent thoughts. What the composer managed to accomplish is a grand salute to the passing of life, but with a tasteful celebration of life woven into the score. The net result, especially with the high caliber of performance witnessed at the Festival’s closure, provided the audience with a transcendental experience.