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!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...
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’...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
Symphony
A FIFTH CONTENDER ENTERS THE RING FOR THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 10, 2018
In these international times, what makes a piece of music American? For Michael Christie, the answer is that it needs to have at least premiered on these shores, if not been composed here. Thus the rationale for the “all American” program that Christie--the fifth and final conducting candidate for t...
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.