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ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma State University Symphony / Sunday, April 29, 2018
Alexander Kahn, conductor. Jonathan Dimmock, organ

Jonathan Dimmock (far left) and Alexander Kahn (far right) April 29 in Weill (JCM Photo)

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’orgue (with organ) was the concert’s title, and since Weill Hall has no resident organ, an explanation is necessary. There was once a plan to have the Schroeder Hall organ’s sound connected to Weill’s speakers hanging from the ceiling, and the Schroeder organist watching the Weill conductor through closed circuit TV. That idea was abandoned, and now an electronic instrument is brought to the stage, in this event a first-cabin three manual unit. San Francisco organist Jonathan Dimmock played it splendidly throughout the afternoon.

SSU faculty artist Alexander Kahn conducted in a style sharply different from the past 20 or so conductors in Weill, choosing conservative and elegant cues and gestures rather and the extravagant control mechanics and dynamics Santa Rosa Symphony conductors such as Bruno Ferrandis and Francesco Lecce-Chong employ. One exception to the one/twenty ratio comes to mind, when Valery Gergiev’s conducted the Mariinsky Orchestra in Weill in a sensational Strauss Ein Heldenleben early this year in his unique “fluffy” arm/hand style. The Mariinsky was one of a handful of superlative orchestra concerts since the hall opened in 2013.

The St. Saëns C Minor unfolded with an initial lovely mystery, deftly drawn by Mr. Kahn, and the organ had ample sound and seemingly greater reverberation time than Weill usually produces. As the 54-person orchestra was composed of community and student players, the usual benchmarks of crisp ensemble, exact string pitch, unified brass attacks and theme projection in the violins needed critical adjustment. That said, there were some convincing performances throughout, especially duos with the violas and cellos, powerful brass outbursts, horn and cello responses and pungent percussion sounds and cymbal crashes. Flutist Alyssa Cunningham and clarinetist Ryan Perry played lovely solos, and Pedro Estrada led the three-person percussion section.

The great bottom C Major organ note opened the final section with majesty, and Mr. Kahn lost no time in bringing the allegro moderato to a rollicking conclusion. The piano part in the finale (two and four hands) was briefly audible, and Mr. Dimmock’s chordal playing, heard only in two parts of the 1886 Symphony, sporadically overpowered the orchestra in a rich sonic mass. But it’s that kind of piece, a champagne festival of glorious sound, and may have been a North Coast premiere.

The St. Saëns was preceded in the first half by Dukas’ Fanfare from the 1911 ballet La Péri, and Poulenc’s G Minor Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani. With 11 players sited high in the balcony behind the stage (four horns, tuba, three trumpets and three trombones) the snappy Dukas work passed without much notice, and in a way so did the Poulenc. Most of the Concerto, finished in 1938, differs from the more familiar Poulenc of urbane French charm, light sarcasm and slightly melancholic tunes. The single-movement music had a movie score character for the first section, and then the Orchestra seemed to catch its stride in the following part of lighter textures and faster tempos. High string intonation in the tempo allegro, molto agitato was a challenge, but the five cellos and two double basses gave a sonorous foundation for the entire 24 minute performance.

The audience of 200 gave the Poulenc performance a short and subdued applause.