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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.]