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Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 04, 2018
When the ATOS Piano Trio planned their all-Russian touring program at their Berlin home base, it had a strong elegiac, even tragic theme that surely resonated with their Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience Nov. 4 in Mill Valley. Comprised of Annette von Hehn, violin; Thomas Hoppe, piano; and...
Chamber
ATOS TRIO IN OCCIDENTAL CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 03, 2018
When the Berlin-based ATOS Piano Trio entered the cramped Occidental Performing Arts stage Nov. 3, the audience of 100 anticipated familiar works in the announced all-Russian program. What they got was a selection of rarely-plays trios, with a gamut of emotions. Then one-movement Rachmaninoff G Mi...
Symphony
MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra i...
Symphony
VIVALDI FOR ALL SEASONS IN WEILL BAROQUE CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, October 27, 2018
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, a dozen superb musicians that include strings, harpsichord and recorder, played an uplifting concert Oct. 27 of mostly Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos. The Weill Hall audience of 600 had rapt attention throughout, and the playing was of the highest musical level. This r...
Recital
LIN'S PIANISM AND PERSONA CHARM SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 21, 2018
In somewhat of a surprise a sold out Schroeder Hall audience greeted pianist Steven Lin Oct. 21 in his local debut recital. Why a surprise? Because Mr. Lin was pretty much unknown in Northern California, and Schroeder is rarely, very rarely sold out for a single instrumentalist. But no matter, and...
Chamber
HEROIC TRUMPET AND ORGAN MUSIC AT INCARNATION
by Jerry Dibble
Friday, October 12, 2018
The strong connections between Santa Rosa’s musical community and California State University Chico were on display Oct. 12 as David Rothe, Professor Emeritus in the Chico Music Department, and Ayako Nakamura, trumpet with the North State Symphony, presented a concert titled “Heroic Music for Trumpe...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, April 15, 2018
Marc Taddei, conductor. Cecile Licad, piano

Cecile Licad and Marc Taddei April 15 (JCM Photo)

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 programming novelty the same pianist, Cecile Licad, played in each of the season’s three concerts, and in this afternoon’s concert the St. Saëns G Minor Concerto, Op. 22, was a featured work. The composer’s C Minor Concerto is arguably a more concise and greater piece, and the showy F Major (“Egyptian”) more sonically extravagant, but the G Minor second concerto never fails to charm audiences. And Ms. Licad did so, playing to loud acclaim from the packed 423-seat theater. But it was a performance that nearly went off the rails at many places, and was artistically lacking refinement and nobility.

Ms. Licad’s solo opening was mundane, at least compared with Mikhail Pletnev’s recent imaginative traversal, but the important interpretive misstep throughout were fast tempos and coarse pianism. The soloist was not a colorist, and the concert piano had a powerful bass register and thin treble that at many times covered the full orchestra sound. I thought I would never write that line in a review – piano covers full orchestra. Perhaps Anton Rubinstein in the 1870s, Hofmann in the 1920s or Horowitz in the 1960s. But Ms. Licad managed to hammer so forcefully that the charm and instrumental lines of the popular St. Saëns were submerged. This was especially apparent in the presto finale where the pianist’s manifold scales were continually blurred, wrong notes crept into the mix and the orchestra seemed to be hanging along for the racehorse ride.

The results were clamorous, and conductor Marc Taddei bears some responsibility for the breakneck speed and sonic mess. But it was an exciting mess, and the standing ovation was quick and long. Ms. Licad returned and played an encore of Chopin’s D Flat Waltz, Op. 64, No. 1 (“Minute”), in a dull reading that lacked elegance and omitted the now popular lilting descending thirds in the penultimate measure.

Perhaps the Empress’ direct, non-reverb acoustics contributed to the Concerto’s disorder, but following an extended intermission Mr. Taddei drew from his Orchestra a splendid reading of Mozart’s last Symphony, the “Jupiter” in C Major, K. 551. Conducting without score, as he did in the concert’s opening Tchaikovsky “Hamlet” Overture, Mr. Taddei adopted brisk tempos but phrases never sounded rushed, and instrumental section balances were exemplary. Attacks and releases were crisp and husky violin projection of themes, always a shortcoming for Northern California community orchestras such as the Sonoma County Philharmonic, here were richly played. The VSO is a professional ensemble.

In the andante cantabile second movement the antiphonal string effects were lovely, as the conductor seats the cellos stage left, gaining low string sonority. Fine horn playing (Margarite Waddell, principal) characterized the third movement, though here top register violin sound seemed to be stretched thin. Principal timpani player John Weeks played a major role in all four movements.

Then came inexorably the final movement of Mozart’s final Symphony, called by the conductor in audience remarks the greatest symphony ever written. The polyphony of the repetitive three and four-note phrases built inexorably, firmly in C major and at a clip swifter than all the preceding. Mr. Taddei took 12 minutes to cover a cosmos of emotion and palpable joy, but he was not in a rush to get anywhere, and took the two forte concluding three-note chords with a perfectly gauged fermata. It was consummate and controlled conducting, and clearly Mozart is close to Mr. Taddei’s artistic center.

Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet from 1888 has strains of the contemporary Overture to Romeo and Juliet and his opera “Eugen Onegin,” and showcased the Vallejo Symphony’s first-cabin wind section and solo oboist Curtis Kidwell. Instrumental contrasts and the composer’s masterful orchestration were deftly presented. A perfect concert opening performance.

Prior to both concert halves Mr. Taddei spoke at length, probably too much length, of a performance the next day in the same Theater of the Mozart Symphony for 800 school children, and plans for the 2018-2019 season. For the first time the Vallejo Symphony will play at least one of their concerts twice (Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, March 30 and 31) in the Empress, and will feature the spiritual Fauré Requiem and Sibelius’ short but profound final Symphony.