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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
MONUMENTAL NIELSEN SYMPHONY CAPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT AT SR HS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Turning again away from conventional repertoire, the Sonoma County Philharmonic programmed Jan. 27 three works in what were local debut performances in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Op. 29, called “Inextinguishable,” closed the program with an extravaga...
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 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.