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Symphony
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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.]