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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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 REVIEW

E. Casanova, C. Steinbuck and E. MacDougall Jan. 27

TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019

Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint readers with developments for Mendocino County’s premiere ensemble.

Developments have been good. Now in his 29th season, conductor Les Pfützenreuter led a unique pairing of two three-piano concertos, with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings occupying the concert’s first half. USO string sound is always iffy as small numbers of musicians (today 8 violins, 3 violas, 4 cellos and 2 basses) produce less than sonorous volume. Additionally intonation problems appear in fast ascending passages in the upper strings, and cutoffs were more crisp than attacks.

That said, Mr. Pfützenreuter had deft control of dynamics with subtle piano and pianissimo differences in the second movement waltz, coupled with steady rhythms and interpretatively little rubato. Viola playing had particular beauty with other string playing winding around them, and thematic restatements in the famous richly colored élégie were elegantly shaped by the conductor. If the initial and second themes in the élégie don’t tug at your heart strings, Tchaikovsky’s music probably isn’t for you.

Tempo in the finale was judicious and overall string sound lack depth, but Mr. Pfützenreuter’s ability to draw sounds swelling from pianissimo to mezzo forte was estimable. The Theater’s acoustics, warm but with negligible reverberation, underscored this captivating and passionate music.

Following intermission Bach’s D Minor Concerto (BWV 1063) for three keyboards was heard, followed by Mozart’s F Major “Triple” Piano Concerto, K. 242, were heard. The common instrument placement of parallel piano “noses” facing directly into the orchestra was dropped in favor of the flügel a flügel arrangement, with pianists Carolyn Steinbuck and Elena Casanova facing pianist Elizabeth MacDougall across instruments with their lids removed.

Each of the soloists has a long Mendocino County performance history and concerts with Mr. Pfützenreuter, so it was no surprise that the Bach from 1733 unfolded with graceful musical counterpoint. Pacing is critical in this work and the conductor kept a steady tempo that allowed the themes, from the primo (Ms. Steinbuck) and secondo (Ms. Casanova) parts, to emerge from what in lesser hands could have been cloudy sound. Playing in the siciliana was lovely and the fugal parts of the concluding allegro had a joyous character.

As good as the Bach work is, and it is very good, the Mozart has more heft and structural interest. The pianists did not rotate instrument positions, and after so much string music it was good to have additional instruments in the mix, especially the horns (though they were way to loud the entire piece). Ensemble was mostly good with a few spots that were rushed and out of sync, something the conductor has no way of fixing during a performance. Ms. Steinbuck played the short cadenza in the opening allegro. Oddly for a work with three solo pianos the most effective thematic statements belonged in the orchestra, and Mr. Pfützenreuter’s control was intensive, though accomplished with less forceful body movements than one sees with most other conductors. In the adagio some of the afternoon’s best playing was heard, the captivating dolce theme came from Ms. Steinbuck, with just the right tinge of sadness. The sonic pianistic interplay in this movement and the technically assured concluding rondo was a highlight, three “singers” at the service of beguiling music.

A standing ovation greeted the conclusion of the concerto, and the conductor spoke of his devotion to Mozart, and that the composer’s 263rd birthday was falling on the day of this concert.

Orchestra officials subsequently informed the packed hall that the May 18 and 19 concerts would be the final ones for the conductor, and a search had begun for a new music director. Mr. Pfützenreuter retired last year as Professor of Music at the College, and announced that he now has time to reacquaint himself with French horn technique.