Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Ukiah Symphony / Sunday, January 27, 2019
Les Pfützenreuter, conductor. Carolyn Steinbuck, Elena Casanova and Elizabeth MacDougall, piano

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.