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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
Marin Symphony / Saturday, January 26, 2019
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Orion Weiss, piano.

Alasdair Neale (l) and Orion Weiss Celebrate Jan. 26 (Stuart Lirette Photo)

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 Dances and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7. The more familiar Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 occupied the entire second half, with soloist Orion Weiss.

The Chairman Dances was composed in the 1980s while Adams worked on the opera Nixon in China, and is a thoroughly intriguing and delightful piece, playful and whimsical at turns, with minute tonal shifts and compelling rhythms that highlighted the orchestra’s excellent percussionists (Kevin Neuhoff and Ward Spangler) and string sections. With a watery, bubbly, Philip Glass-like minimalist beginning, with intervals of repetitive figurations punctuated by bells and clicks from triangle, tambourine, glockenspiel and the like, the playing was hypnotic. The music tumbles towards cacophony, and then pulls back, morphing into a ballroom dance melody, a foxtrot that is romantic, even ethereal. Toward the end, the instruments peel off one by one until only the piano and drums remain. The music slows as the clock ticks time away and then all is quiet. It was a champagne-worthy performance, much appreciated by the half-capacity audience in the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.

The mood turned thoughtful with the opening of Sibelius’ Symphony, No. 7 in C major, Op. 105, written in 1924 and his last. It takes the form of a tone poem with a single 25-minute movement that changes mood and tempos as it travels great expressive distances. All of its major passages are in C major or C minor, and composer Vaughan-Williams is quoted as having said that no one but Sibelius could make C major sound fresh. There are ten sections that unfold without pause, with evolving texture and color, evoking a vast landscape both interior and exterior: the icy realm of Sibelius’ native Finland, with splendid playing from trombonists Craig McAmis and Kurt Patzner. Mr. Neale commented earlier that the Seventh Symphony “pulls you along in its wake.” The conductor interpreted the work as a slowly unfolding drama, a sound odyssey of mythic proportion.

After intermission Mr. Weiss joined the Symphony for the B-Flat Concerto (Op. 83 from 1881), and the performance of this powerful work was illuminating in a number of ways. This is passionate music, often anguished, sometimes furious and then tender. Meredith Brown’s lovely opening horn solo led to Mr. Weiss’ muscular playing, though he appeared tense as he strove to balance the underpowered piano’s voice against the orchestra’s sonority, which sometimes threatened to overwhelm him. This palpable sense of tension lasted through the allegro appassionato second movement. But in the lyrical third movement (andante) Mr. Weiss visibly relaxed as he played the solo passages, and in the solos and beautifully transparent duets with horn and principal cellist Madeleine Tucker, and splendid playing from flutist Katrina Walter and oboist Margot Golding, Mr. Weiss plumbed the movement’s poetic depth and cast a spell.

The final movement, allegretto grazioso—un poco più presto, had a heightened quality in its tender and spritely passages, and the concerto came to a triumphant conclusion. It’s a sinewy piece, and less volume from the orchestra would have benefited sonic balance and clarity, but otherwise it was a thrilling performance.

Some audience members applauded between movements, which Mr. Neale and Mr. Weiss took good-naturedly, though each time it seemed to disrupt the musical flow. A prolonged standing ovation rewarded the soloist and orchestra at the conclusion.