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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
Ukiah Symphony / Sunday, December 08, 2019
Phillip Lenberg, conductor. Polina Sedukh, violin

Violinist Polina Sedukh

UNFINISHED AND FINNISH

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019

Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also joined the College faculty. Clearly it was time to hear how the USO would sound under different leadership.

The initial answer was problematical, as the two Sibelius Valses (Romantique, Op. 62b, and Triste, Op. 44, No. 1) received lackluster performances with spotty attacks and shaky string pitch. The tempos Mr. Lenberg selected were quite slow and even the ever-popular Triste lacked lift and charm. Yes Triste’s character is sad, but sad with flow and subtle momentum.

So it was a pleasant surprise to hear the conductor draw from his orchestra a convincing interpretation of Schubert’s 8th Symphony (“Unfinished”), a two-movement work from the early 1820s. Here attacks and releases were lucid and there was exemplary brass playing throughout, the horns augmented in this concert by three Sonoma County Philharmonic players. The opening section was properly mysterious and even ambiguous, and there was fine thematic playing from clarinetist Nick Xenelis and oboist Beth Aiken over murmuring strings. The big Fortissimo chords were gripping, the conductor controlling section balances and underscoring the work’s violence with just a touch of warmth in the famous second theme played pianissimo.

The E Major Andante second movement was equally effective, beginning with the theme from cello and bass sections, and lovely wind playing with Mr. Lenberg sculpting a chaste oboe ritard before a second theme that was first introduced by the violins. The USO played wonderfully softly at the end, capturing the spiritual calmness of music that at times had strange outbursts and keys far from E Major.

Following intermission came Sibelius’ D Minor Violin Concerto with soloist Polina Sedukh. Playing from score Ms. Sedukh’s focused and shimmering opening phrases were perfectly taken up by the Orchestra, and her bright violin sound, accurate pitch and fast trills had the character needed for this magisterial work from 1905. Her sound was more persuasive in the lower register, but her command of changing vibrato and double stops was artistic. Her sonic power in the long Cadenza was ample.

In the Adagio there are two places were short ascending violin phrases, each ending in a repeat, each repeat best played at less volume and perhaps with a tiny ending ritard, are key to a stellar performance. Ms. Sedukh played both beautifully, as she did with the movement’s final notes, piano and sans vibrato. Elegant playing.

Occasionally in the finale the Orchestra played too loudly, covering the violin line. The soloist caught the intensity of the composer’s writing that in the Orchestra featured resonant trombones and horns. The violin part is virtuosic, at several places dropping from a stratospheric F-Sharp to a low beginning phrase of 13 ascending thirds, marked staccato. Many famous soloists can’t make the fall off, either delaying or slurring the marked upward staccato notes. Ms. Sedukh managed these demanding phrases with aplomb and deft authority.

The Allegro’s last chords brought a standing ovation from the audience of 300, with two curtain calls.

Since Classical Sonoma last attended USO concerts, extra-musical details have all been upgraded – marketing, printed programs, lobby food, the ever-present raffle and gratis entry to the adjacent art gallery. All seems to bode well for a successful tenure for Mr. Lenberg with his seasoned Orchestra.

Daniel Greenhosue contributed to this review.