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Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, January 24, 2009
David Lockington, Guest Conductor; Carol Wincenc, Flute Soloist

SRS Guest conductor David Lockington

WELL WITHIN THE BOX

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Before the Santa Rosa Symphony began its concert Saturday, the public-address announcer said there would be a short presentation on behalf of the Youth Orchestra. A tall, red-headed young woman then rose from the concertmaster’s chair and offered an exquisite reading of a brief, unidentified Romantic violin solo. After the applause, the Youth Orchestra manager strode to the stage, identified the soloist as the orchestra’s concertmistress, and informed the audience that the ensemble was only $10,000 short of the $289,000 needed to pay for a concert tour of Europe this summer.

It was heartening to learn that the Youth Orchestra is still thriving despite the economic downturn, and to hear the quality of one of its musicians. Less heartening was the apparent effect of the downturn on the Symphony itself. There were more than a few empty seats, including most of those in my balcony row.

Perhaps another reason for the less-than-full house was the absence of Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, who has developed an avid following in his few short years in Santa Rosa. His replacement, David Lockington, conductor of the Modesto Symphony, had large shoes to fill, along with some relatively unfamiliar repertoire — a double whammy.

Lockington is an unassuming, workmanlike conductor, as became immediately evident in the opening work, Carnaval for Orchestra, by the contemporary Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra. This work, premiered last year as part of the Magnum Opus project, could have been written many decades before. Taking an obvious cue from Robert Schumann, the five movements depict, in the composer’s own words, “five creatures of imagination,” namely gargoyles, sphinxes, unicorns, dragons, and the phoenix.

Using almost every instrument at its disposal, Sierra’s score evokes this bestiary mainly through orchestral color, with a plethora of muted trumpets, shimmering strings, eerie woodwinds, and all manner of percussion. Lockington kept all these elements under control with an unflagging beat and precise cues. He did not, however, bring much forward motion to the work.

That lack of motion is as much Sierra’s fault as Lockington’s. Like many composers of his ilk, Sierra seems content to paint a sonic portrait of a given image, but without investing that image with a temporal or narrative aspect. Through the density and variety of its sound, Carnaval engaged the senses, yet the mind wanted more.

Next up was another programmatic work, Bernstein’s Halil, for flute and orchestra, featuring the guest artist, Carol Wincenc. Modern flute concertos are a fairly rare breed, and this one almost doesn’t qualify as a solo concerto, given the prominent role played by an offstage alto flute and piccolo.

Bernstein wrote Halil to commemorate a young Israeli flutist killed during the 1973 Arab–Israeli war. As befits its subject, the piece is by turns elegiac and percussive, with a virtual army of snare drums replicating the drumbeat of war. Wincenc invested the score with a certain degree of emotion, yet her tone was a bit thin, and she was often upstaged by the offstage players. As if to atone for this shortcoming, she quickly launched into an encore, the Fantaisie by Fauré. This was short and sweet and allowed her to display some virtuosic chops.

After a steady diet of program music, it was a relief to hear the more abstract strains of Copland’s Third Symphony following intermission. This classically formal work contains some of Copland’s best music, from the open harmonies at the beginning to the well-known fanfare at the end. When performed with vigor and insight, it can be inspiring.

Unfortunately, Lockington’s natural restraint kept the symphony well within the box. Unlike Ferrandis, Lockington hardly moves when he conducts, and the players likewise kept to their notes without displaying much emotion. Too much of the playing was at the same level, a kind of tepid mezzoforte, without the full dynamic range that Copland’s music requires.

The strings were solid throughout, though the brass and woodwinds were occasionally ragged. Tempi were often on the slow side, particularly in the Andantino third movement, which often seemed on the verge of dissolving. Fortunately, the pace quickened in the last movement, and the brass and woodwinds offered several convincing iterations of the famous Fanfare for the Common Man. By the end, the glory of the writing overcame most of the performance’s shortcomings.

All in all, it wasn’t a great concert, but it offered some solid music-making and a glimpse of unfamiliar repertoire. More important, the donation table for the Youth Orchestra was mobbed at intermission, and the proffered hats were overflowing.

[This article first appeared in San Francisco Classical Voice (www.sfcv.org), and is used by permission.]