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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Jennifer Koh, violin

Conductor Alasdair Neale

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, forgoing a previously programmed another local Tchaikovsky Fourth.

So it was no surprise that the monumental 1878 Fourth was the capstone of the Marin Symphony’s back-to-back concerts Oct. 29 and 31, launching the 65th season and Alasdair Neale’s 21st as conductor. The Tuesday night concert, played before 800 in the Marin Center Auditorium, is reviewed here.

In the opening andante –moderato – allegro vivo horn and string entrances were often hit and miss, but footing was quickly found and Mr. Neale forged a commanding interpretation of brooding intensity. String playing was powerful, especially when the recapitulation arrived in the odd key (to F Minor) of D Minor. The following andantino’s folk song theme was fetchingly played by oboist Margot Golding, and the music reached an impassioned climax.

In the scherzo the word “genius” comes quickly to mind, with a joyous perpetual string pizzicato, with the Symphony’s excellent wind section (Ms. Golding, flutist Monica Daniel-Barker, clarinetist Arthur Austin) adding a piquant but perhaps unneeded respite to the plucked string magic. The movement’s tempo and piccolo playing of Katrina Walter were ideal.

Orchestra aficionados always gravitate to the tumultuous allegro con fuoco finale, and here the conductor didn’t disappoint. The danger is the seduction of a super fast tempo that can drive things off the rails as the excitement builds and the cymbals crash. Many cymbal crashes. Mr. Neale drew a propulsive performance from his orchestra, leaving nothing on the table, and the audience responded with a roaring standing ovation, and brought the conductor three times to center stage to acknowledge the applause.

Concluding the first half was a lush and lyrical but largely underpowered performance of Barber’s Op. 14 Violin Concerto, with Jennifer Koh as soloist. Ms. Koh captured the ruminating quality of the music from 1940, especially in the first two movements, but too often she could be seen playing but not heard, as least from my seat in mid orchestra. Barber’s violin writing weaves in and out of the orchestral fabric and was frequently covered by the upper strings, affecting the sonic balance. The soloist played well, with deft small slides between notes and an overarching nostalgic violin color, but details and even her elegant phrasing were occasionally submerged. Too much ensemble sound? Hall acoustics? Lack of Ms. Koh’s thematic projection? Clarinet, oboe and horn (Darby Hinshaw) playing married beautifully with the soloist in the andante and the unidentified pianist provided short harmonic touches, mostly in descending-note phrases.

Beginning the concert was the Rimsky-Korsakov adaptation of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bare Mountain. The hints of Tchaikovsky were always present in the brilliant orchestration and often-blaring effects. The Symphony’s stalwart trombones (Bruce Chrisp) and trumpets (John Freeman) were up to the demanding task here and all evening.