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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
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
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. ...
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...
Symphony
LECCE-CHONG PROVES HIS METTLE WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 07, 2018
Francesco Lecce-Chong was handed two warhorses for his debut as conductor of the Santa Rosa Symphony, and he rode them both to thrilling victory. For the first win, Brahms’ violin concerto, he owed much to soloist Arnaud Sussman, but for the other triumph, Beethoven’s fifth symphony, he and his musi...
Symphony
SAKAKEENY'S LION AND ROSE HIGHLIGHTS SO CO PHIL'S 20TH SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Ph...
Symphony
!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 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.