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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
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
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 musical...
Symphony
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’...
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 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.