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Recital
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
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Sunday, Feb. 9, performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the ...
Symphony
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
STRING QUINTETS, RARE AND FAMILIAR, IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, January 26, 2020
One hundred attendees in Schroeder Hall were treated Jan. 26 to a pair of stirring two-cello string quintets: Schubert’s much beloved masterpiece Quintet in C (D. 956), and Catoire’s Quintet in C minor (Op. 16), the latter mostly a forgotten work written in 1909. The performers were violinist Victo...
Chamber
MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the m...
Chamber
CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020
The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Chu...
Chamber
LOCAL MUSICIANS SHINE IN MTAC BENEFIT CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 25, 2020
After a fire-related postponement of four months, the Sonoma County Chapter of the Music Teachers Association of California Jan. 25 gave their annual scholarship benefit in a charming Sebastopol home. Showcasing local musicians in an intimate setting with two pianos, the first half highlights inclu...
Symphony
MOZART MASTERWORK HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Excitement was palpable in the Marin Civic Center Auditorium Jan. 25 as the Marin Symphony in splendid full force took the stage for a richly textured Masterworks II program. Prevented from giving its first Masterworks offering by the wildfire-caused blackouts last October, the orchestra returned wi...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, November 03, 2019
Marc Taddei, conductor. Bobby Mitchell, piano

Conductor Marc Taddei

DVORAK SYMPHONY CYCLE CONTINUES IN VSO SEASON OPENING CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 03, 2019

There was a surprise at the Nov. 3 Vallejo Symphony’s 88th season opening Concert. Of the three works programed by conductor Marc Taddei, the Bartok E major Piano Concerto was the least craggy and sonically demanding. Bartok upstaged in musical impact? How so?

Before a nearly sold out Empress Theater audience Mr. Taddei omitted the usual season-opening Star Spangled Banner and after brief remarks regarding the year’s themes (“Great and Noble” and completing a cycle of Dvorák Symphonies) directed an energetic performance of Barber’s First Symphony, Op. 9. Lasting just 21 minutes, the 1936 work had splendid cello-clarinet duos, potent tympani playing from John Weeks, and the golden sound from the middle of the Orchestra from oboist Curtis Kidwell.

Mr. Taddei’s conducting style is all business with distinct cues, certainly needed in the music that swirled from neo-romantic lyricism to sonorous flowing climaxes that at times encompassed a hint of remorse. The conductor’s section control in the Passacaglia (near the end) was sure and generated a big sound in the Empress’ non-reverberant space. This Symphony is often compared with the Sibelius Seventh, but to me they are far apart, and the Sibelius (played last season by the VSO) ends quietly in a mysterious ascending phrase. Here the conductor shaped a big sound, and in the applause he singled out Mr. Kidwell.

The hall’s piano (not a Steinway) was set center stage with soloist Bobby Mitchell tackling the third Bartok Concerto, an autumnal for Bartok work that sharply diverges from the two dissonant and difficult predecessors. Using a score but only sporadically looking at it, Mr. Mitchell adopted clipped phrases and a dry tone that suited the instrument and the music composed in 1945 at the end of Bartok’s life. There was sharply etched thematic projection throughout the three-movement work. Mr. Taddei was in no hurry with tempos and shaped the long lines and chordal weighting in the Adagio Religioso with care. Laurie Siebold’s piccolo playing was adroit.

In the Allegro Vivace finale balancing instrumental sections is paramount, and Mr. Taddei met the challenge admirably, controlling the often explosive outbursts. Mr. Mitchell’s playing kept pace and even a delightful piano ascending Glissando was added to the mix. A sterling performance of a masterpiece.

Following intermission Dvorák’s D Minor Symphony (No. 7) was heard, one of the last of the Dvorák Symphonies Mr. Taddei has led over several seasons since joining the VSO in 2016. Brahms was an admirer and mentor to Dvorák, and the German master’s C Minor Symphony is mentioned as a model to the Czech composer’s No. 7. Again for me the comparison is weak, and much more Bruckner and different textures seem imbued in the work that premiered in 1885. Mr. Taddei drew a resolute and authoritative reading from his Orchestra, though powerful brass playing frequently overpowered the high strings and made quick ascending unison playing in the first violins blurred.

Throughout the four movements flutist Melanie Keller played the virtuoso parts with consummate artistry, often in duos with clarinetist Diane Maltester and in conjunction with the horn section. The Poco Adagio opened like a summer flower with soft string sound and bucolic woodwind playing. In the Scherzo Mr. Taddei focused on the Czech character of the music with exemplary playing in duos from the cello section and bassoonists Jarratt Rossini and Michelle Keem.

Mr. Taddei continued his consummate orchestral authority in the finale, especially in a dark hued chorale section. In 38 minutes that seemed short the Dvorak’s 7th was an organic whole, the VSO playing splendidly and affirming the conductor’s clear connection with a masterful Symphony and glorious composer.

Audience reaction was swift and loud with applause, the only possible response. Additional Dvorák Symphonies are scheduled for the sets Feb. 29/March 1 and April 18/19, both in the Empress.