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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

Violinist Elena Urioste

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 (Copland’s third symphony). The players were in top form, and the soloist, Elena Urioste, was a marvel to behold. The only flaws were in the music itself, not in the performance.

Before raising his baton for the Gershwin, Mr. Kahane explained that “An American in Paris” was heavily edited for the movie version, which is the same version that audiences have heard for the past 70 years. That’s beginning to change because of a revised edition published in 2017 that restores Gershwin’s original score, including dissonant taxi horns and a trio for soprano saxophones. The original score proved far more intriguing than its Hollywooden imitation. The orchestration is more inventive, the dissonances more pronounced, and the orchestral timbre more expansive, thanks in large part to the plethora of saxophones (six in all) and a bristling arsenal of percussion instruments.

Mr. Kahane set a brisk tempo, coaxing light and transparent playing from his colleagues, along with considerable rhythmic flexibility. Both of his arms were in constant movement, but he steered clear of dramatic gestures, preferring a subtler approach. The violin, trumpet and trombone solos were excellent, backed by the orchestra’s lush and confident sound. The “new” soprano sax trio was startling, made all the more memorable by the players’ donning of dark glasses.

What impressed most during the performance was the variety of musical material and the intricacy of the orchestration. The contrast between the languid and the energetic was profound, and the buildup to the clamorous ending, beginning with a wonderful tuba solo, was palpably exciting. Raucous applause and an immediate standing ovation followed.

The mood changed considerably when soloist Elena Urioste appeared on stage in a garish red pantsuit, inhabiting an opposite sartorial universe from the black-clad musicians. The distraction of the Ms. Urioste’s outfit faded as soon as she began to play the Barber violin concerto, but she still remained apart from her fellow musicians. She began the concerto somewhat timidly, barely projecting above the orchestra. Her warm tone and flawless technique didn’t become evident until well into the opening movement. She shone brightly in the solo passages, but the balance problems persisted, particularly when she was drowned out by the French horns in an otherwise beautiful passage.

The slow second movement proved to be Ms. Urioste’s salvation. She entered with a beguiling pianissimo, followed by a dramatic crescendo. Her vibrato was warm and convincing, and her tone, particularly on the lower strings, was sumptuous. She sustained the intensity through seamless bowing and a sincere expression of feeling.

Ms. Urioste displayed a different kind of intensity in the presto third movement, marked “in moto perpetuo” (in perpetual movement). She tore out of the gate at breakneck speed, and her arms and fingers were a blur for the next few minutes until she crossed the finish line with an even faster burst of energy. Most if not all of the notes were one per bow, so the speed source was primarily her bowing arm, which whipped back and forth incessantly, a flexible combination of shoulder, elbow and wrist. The result was dazzling.

The fourth movement of Copland’s third symphony reprises the composer’s well-known “Fanfare for the Common Man,” but the others are original, and all are marked by Copland’s distinctive open sound. In contrast to “Appalachian Spring,” “Billy the Kid” and Copland’s other program music, the third symphony is classically formal and mostly devoid of exterior references. Structure is paramount and inescapable. Certain devices--such as wide melodic intervals, syncopation and fugal entries--are used throughout.

The reliance on form animates the first and second movements, but it becomes oppressive by the third, where one begins to long for a little relief. Despite the formal constrictions, the performance itself was sparkling. Mr. Kahane conducted without a baton and used both hands equally to corral the relentless energy and give each orchestral section its due. The second movement was notable for its militaristic march, punctuated by occasional percussive gunshots.

The prime dynamic for all four movements was fortissimo, especially the fourth movement. The most telling image of the night came in that movement, when a momentarily tacit trumpeter covered his ears firmly during the first brass fanfare. Moments later, he threw caution to the winds and joined the piercing blast.

The skillful playing of the entire ensemble continued unabated through some astoundingly intricate passages, and the concluding brass fanfare ensured a memorable close. The performance was a tour de force, but the music could have used some of Gershwin’s flexibility or Barber’s emotion.

Reprinted by permission from San Francisco Classical Voice.