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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
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Marc Taddei

DVORAK SYMPHONY CYCLE CONTINUES IN VSO SEASON OPENING CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 3, 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.