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Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
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 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.