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Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, conductor. Elena Urioste, violin

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.