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Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Alasdair Neale

MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018

Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.

Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra introduction of the Tchaikovsky, setting the stage for the entry of few cadenza-like bars from soloist Dylana Jenson’s broadly lyrical main theme. There are many ways to interpret this 1878 work, usually a high-powered virtuosic showpiece with muscular virtuosity, but this afternoon Ms. Jenson chose a low-voltage approach. With the hall’s direct and non-reverberant sound, her playing had clarity and often elegance, but was frequently covered by the orchestra. A similar understated performance in the same hall and orchestra was in the 2016 Jennifer Koh Barber Concerto, but a big violin sound can be had here, as Vadim Gluzman proved many seasons ago.

Ms. Jenson played the cadenza (the composer’s own; are there others?) well with exemplary bow control in the top register and with small tailing off at phrase endings, limited swelling on individual notes and immaculate scales. Mr. Neale held the orchestra back at places, deferring to the soloist.

All through the performance Ms. Jenson was never in a hurry, preferring a chaste projection of themes in the allegro and andante movements, and melding flawlessly with solos from flutist Katrina Walker and clarinetist Arthur Austin. The violinist’s trills were not only fast but deftly shaped, and she commanded a spiccato technique that was admirable.

In the concluding allegro the workmanlike solo interpretation continued without many intriguing ideas or playing that didn’t emerge from the orchestral fabric with any commanding sonic projection. Oboist Margot Golding played beautiful responses to Ms. Walker, and Mr. Neale provided solid support to the rhythmic of the dance and at times the bass-heavy second theme.

The audience greeting the low-temperature reading with an extended standing ovation.

Following intermission Mr. Neale drew from his orchestra an extraordinarily lucid and powerful reading of the Shostakovich Symphony, a four-movement work from 1953. Conducting without score (pretty rare these days, and somewhat dangerous) Mr. Neale let this majestic and sporadically menacing piece unfold naturally, building sonically thrilling climaxes throughout, as the composer (with perhaps symphonists Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler and Sibelius) could uniquely construct. The darkly brooding moderato, lasting almost 30 minutes, was brilliantly played. Mr. Neale avoided milking the long and often loud phrases, clearly wanting the momentum to have a natural pace and sensibility. I suspect Mr. Neale knows well the composer’s rarely performed Fourth Symphony (1936), with its deep bass and cello underpinning, and at this concert he seated the low strings stage left for additional sonority.

Beautiful clarinet and horn playing characterized the first movement, and a piccolo duet (Ms. Walker and Sasha Launer) was captivating. The composer writes masterfully for this instrument.

The short scherzo had terrifying impact with relentless speed and raucous intensity, the trombones especially potent. Several violinists could not quite keep up with the breakneck velocity, and the ensemble was at times blurred. Horn playing in the third movement allegretto was almost impeccable, with principal Darby Hinshaw sounding richly above his orchestra colleagues, and lead to a laconic and characteristically melancholic Shostakovich thematic response from Ms. Walker sorrowful clarinet phrases.

Sterling wind playing continued into the finale (andante – allegro) where the conductor continued to fashion a glorious rubric of rich sound, keeping the many threads of this complicated music well in hand. Standout soloists here were Mr. Austin, Ms. Walker (projecting a theme which was a call to musical battle), the cello section and bassoonist Carla Wilson. The Marin Symphony’s four-horn section played the tricky four-note ascending and descending phrases in unison.

This performance was among the finest I have ever heard from the Marin Symphony, in a work that demanded astral virtuoso accomplishment from each section. However, the hero of the afternoon was Mr. Neale, whose conception and authority in Shostakovich’s music were marvelous to experience.

Bravos erupted at the end of the 59-minute odyssey, and the ovation was long and resounding.