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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

Alasdair Neale Leads Applause for Oliver Herbert April 28

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 like crystal.

It was Mozart’s practice to compose an overture after completing the respective opera score, so the piece contains intimations of all that is to come: evocation of earth and sky, a villainess and her minions, a master of mysteries, a pure-hearted hero and innocent heroine, lechery, danger, absurdity, love—all swirled into a joyful concoction. The performance was greeted by a capacity audience at the Marin Civic Auditorium with great enthusiasm.

Big, noble works with full orchestra filled the rest of the program: Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85, with soloist Oliver Herbert, and Beethoven’s E-Flat Major Symphony, Op. 55 (Eroica). Mr. Neale has known Mr. Herbert since the latter was a toddler, and their comfortable rapport showed in a splendid reading of the Elgar. This weekend the cellist performed it for the first time in public, and it’s a work that demands technical excellence, tonal power, and lots of soul. Written as World War I was drawing to a close, it mirrors the anxious tenor of the times. Although Elgar lived another 14 years after its premiere, it was to be his last major composition.

Slow in gaining popularity, the concerto, which Elgar termed “a man’s attitude toward life,” is performed more today than most other Elgar compositions. For one critic it signified a “lament for a lost world,” and from the first deep expressions of sorrow, double-stop chords in E Minor, its sense of tragedy is always close by. Near the beginning of the first movement, the cello writing poses a rising series of quasi questions and sighs, which are answered by the violas and then the clarinets and bassoons. A melody of memorable sweetness and a pastoral, undulating passage raise the mood. Throughout the four movements of this epic work, the cello line questions, cherishes, anguishes, and seems to come to terms with the meaning of “a man’s life” in all its complexity. The orchestra playing was stellar, and Mr. Herbert communicated the concerto’s mixed emotions with great skill, heart and strength.

“Masterworks 4: Fearless,” the title for this concert, aptly describes Beethoven’s innovative Third Symphony, written in 1805. This was perhaps his greatest symphonic piece up to the time of its first performance, and wielded substantial influence not only on contemporary composers, but also in the short term influenced his six additional symphonies to come. Its motives and thematic development set a new direction for him; hints of this appear like golden threads in the fabrics of the 5th, 6th, and 7th Symphonies in particular. Although (or because of) suffering at the time from a rapidly accelerating hearing loss, he was able to forge a new, fearless path, breaking away from the Classical form and never looking back.

Forty-seven minutes in most performances, the Eroica presents something of a marathon for any orchestra, but the Marin forces played it beautifully. The first movement (allegro con brio) flings open the doors with two emphatic chords that lead quickly into a strange transition in the cellos to C Sharp. The instruments weigh in individually and in unison to sound a thrilling pulse, emanating great energy, a gathering of forces that never lets up. The second movement, Marche funebre (adagio assai) was a shock to listeners at the time, as there hadn’t been a funeral march before in a symphony. A fugue, led by the strings, was played powerfully through all the instrumental sections and resolved like a chorale before re-introducing the funeral processional. A staccato puttering Scherzo (Allegro Vivace) gave way three times to a mellow horn quartet, led by principal Darby Hinshaw, that might have been a call to the hunt. The movement hurried on energetically once more and ended much as it had begun.

The Eroica’s final movement reasserts the emphatic chords of the first movement, and quickly leads to a rondo, with restatements of motives and themes and a graceful rising to a coda that is its triumphal climax.

As the audience stood to applaud the sterling performance, Mr. Neale singled out in succession the strings, oboes, flutes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, horns, and timpanist Tyler Mack for special recognition.