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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 Sarah Ioannides

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 concert, the third in the set, is reviewed here.

Conductor Sarah Ioannides proved throughout the evening to have a firm control of the music and the wonderful SRS players, but offered no particular interpretative revelations during the 89 minutes of music. Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s C Major Overture opened the program and passed without much notice, despite lovely string ensemble playing, Meredith Brown’s horn solo and musical references to Von Weber’s overtures.

Clara Schumann’s A Minor Concerto, Op. 7, completed the first half with pianist Sara Davis Buechner as piano soloist. This is a difficult work to sound convincing in a modern concert hall, as the themes are conventional and the harmonic progressions seem aimless. The 1833 work begins with dramatic octaves crashing down (as in Robert Schumann’s A Minor Concerto from 1845) but much of the passagework, runs and arpeggios don’t lie easily for the soloist’s technique. Ms. Ioannides kept the sonic balances in check, and deferred to Ms. Buechner in the big thematic statements in the allegro maestoso and in the stirring romanze with the fetching duo of the pianist and cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns. This use of a cello solo was unique in concertos of the time, even one that has a strong resemblance to the music of Hummel and Moscheles.

The finale had music and playing of more individuality, and handsome flute solos from Kathleen Lane Reynolds. Ms. Buechner’s playing sounded labored at times, and surprisingly she used score with a page turner, something now never seen with virtuoso pianists in conventional repertoire in an urban hall. Oddly it was Madame Schumann that was one of the first to play concerted works from memory, with this piece 186 years now old.

Readers interested in first rate Clara Schumann music might consult her Piano Trio and the heart-on-sleeve Romance from the Op. 22 Suite, the latter played in Weill Feb. 8 by violinist Joshua Bell and Pianist Sam Haywood.

Following intermission Robert Schumann’s dramatic and dark-hued E-Flat Major Overture, Op. 115, was heard. This is echt Schumann with continual reference to the Rhenish (3rd) Symphony, though the charm and sparkling hues of the Rhenish are absent. Ms. Ioannides drew a compelling performance with sterling trumpet duets from Kale Cumings and Scott Macomber. String sound was potent, with the usual SRS sitting of second violins stage left giving sectional differentiation.

The evening’s finest music came with Mendelssohn’s E-Flat Major Symphony (Op. 56, “Scottish”), a work the conductor fashioned with energy and elegant phrasing. After a solemn introduction things became impassioned (at allegro un poco) with a juxtaposition of orchestral light and mystery, but always a dense sound that this listener (in the balcony) found compelling. There was continual timpani artistry of Andrew Lewis. The composer omitted trombones but the Symphony’s seven basses and five horns gave strong thematic underpinning through the 41-minute work. Wind playing in the adagio had lovely small touches, with Ms. Lane, clarinetist Roy Zajac and oboist Laura Reynolds in lovely trios and duos.

Ms. Ioannides drove the concluding fiercely energetic allegro maestoso assai to a potent conclusion, beginning early in the movement to build the momentum, albeit with small songful pianissimo sections that slowed at times but never diminished the drama.

A standing ovation from most of the 850 in Weill seemingly compelled the conductor to recognize many of the Symphony’s musicians, and additional applause.

Virginia Eskin and Daniel Glover contributed to this review.