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Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
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 ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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...
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.