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Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
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...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
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...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
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...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Zuill Bailey, cello

Cellst Zuill Bailey May 1 At Marin Symphony Concert (AW Photo)

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 musically, as conductor Alasdair Neale pointed out in a brief introduction to the program, they had in common a mastery of orchestral colors and the ability to tell a story.

Strauss’s one-movement Serenade for Wind Instruments in E-flat Major opened the program. Scored for thirteen players, the standard double winds plus four horns and contrabassoon, it is in sonata form and has the feel of Strauss’s hero Mozart. It was composed when Strauss was only 17, and was his first major success as a composer. Chorale-like harmonies and lyrical solos by each instrument in turn had the ease and comfort of long intimacy. The piece conjured a verdant countryside and changing skies. Despite a brief juncture when the ensemble seemed to waver, it was a charming introduction to the youthful Strauss and set the stage for a tone poem from his maturity, Don Quixote (Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, Op. 35), featuring cellist Zuill Bailey as the misguided Don who is sure that what he sees is real, when nearly always it is not.

Based on picturesque incidents in the Cervantes novel, Strauss’s 40-minute vivid soundscape makes full use of the symphony orchestra’s colors. Written the same year as tone poem The Hero’s Life and closely followed by Thus Spake Zarathustra, this is Strauss at his most powerful. Mr. Bailey is a nuanced performer and riveting to watch. His cello playing had gorgeous duets with concertmaster Jeremy Constant’s violin (the youthful spirit of Don Quixote) and with violist Jenny Douglass as Sancho Panza. Tubist Zachariah Spellman underscored Sancho Panza’s common sense and genuine warmth. Through the medium of his amber-hued cello, Mr. Bailey gave life to the Don. And within the orchestral soundscape, beautifully shaped by Mr. Neale, all the characters were clearly heard: the trotting of Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante; the herd of sheep that Quixote believes are an army; the windmills he is certain are evil giants.

The orchestra played well and there was palpable camaraderie among the players, conductor, and soloist. Each emotion so eloquently formed in Mr. Bailey’s cello lines were elegant, and near the end, when the music suggests the demise of the elderly knight, Mr. Bailey remained motionless until the conductor lowered his baton. The audience rose with an ovation, and the soloist, presented with a bouquet, graciously re-gifted it to Ms. Douglass, who beamed.

For the second half Mr. Neale and the orchestra turned to music by Stravinsky, prefacing a major work, Suite from the ballet The Firebird, with a small one, Scherzo a la Russe. This spritely, modern-sounding one-movement piece was first orchestrated for the Paul Whiteman Band, and re-orchestrated and premiered in 1947 by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by the composer. Based on Russian folk songs, the piece often sounds as though it belongs to Stravinsky’s early ballet, Petrouchka. Full of sharp, dotted rhythms and possessing a frenetic energy, it was performed by the MSO with great style. Its ending is a complete surprise, abrupt and unexpected. To emphasize this, Mr. Neale spun on the podium after the last note and the orchestra leapt to its feet. Delighted laughter from the audience mingled with applause.

With the Firebird Suite the MSO entered a magical world of fairy birds, princesses, and evil sorcerers. The full ballet debuted in 1919, and Stravinsky subsequently adapted the music to form three concert suites, of which this is the most frequently performed. Principal cellist Madeleine Tucker’s solo was among the notable threads in this beautifully textured tale. Its five movements include the enchanting dance of the Firebird, the dance of captive princesses (with lovely solos by flute and oboe). In the infernal dance of the villain, King Kashchei, the percussion section shone, and in its enthusiasm almost overwhelmed the rest of the orchestra. The gentle, swaying Berceuse revealed the extraordinary cohesion of the string players, the violin section’s ensemble a whisper beneath Carla Wilson’s gorgeous bassoon solo. The Finale brought back the Princesses’ theme and rose to an exciting climax. The audience responded with a standing ovation that lasted through the curtain calls as Mr. Neale acknowledged each of his soloists with great appreciation.