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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

Violinist Polina Sedukh

UNFINISHED AND FINNISH

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 8, 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.