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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
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Ukiah Symphony / Sunday, February 22, 2009
88 X 2
Elizabeth MacDougall and Elena Casanova, Pianists

Elizabeth MacDougall (l) and Elena Casanova with Ukiah SO Conductor Less Pfutzenreuter

TWO WORLD PREMIERES AT UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Larry Flor
Sunday, February 22, 2009

On a rainy Feb. 22, with lots of weekend entertainment available, a unique and exciting concert occurred on the bucolic Mendocino College campus where the Ukiah Symphony, under the baton of conductor Les Pfutzenreuter, performed works of the old and the “brand new” and something in-between. On the program was the rarely heard Beethoven Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, two world premiere works, and the delightful Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc.

The first half was solely the Beethoven Symphony. It started with some ragged ensemble and pesky intonation problems, especially in the strings, and entrances and cut-offs which were not quite precise. However, things improved as the musicians warmed to their task and the conductor’s careful section balancing. Special kudos go to flautist Becky Ayers and clarinetist Eric Van Dyke for their phrasing and rich tone in the Adagio movement. The fast rising passages in the concluding allegro proved a challenge for the strings to stay together, but in summary, the symphony was admirably played

Two world premieres were presented after intermission, beginning with the Ukiah resident David Smith’s Concerto Anacapa, featuring insouciant piano soloist Elena Casanova. The gem of this three-movement work was the second part, where Casanova played with elegance, the piece fitting her style perfectly. However, for this reviewer the entire composition felt unbalanced with a very short and rhythmic opening movement, a much longer second movement, and a third movement of moderate length. As a whole, the work did capture the image of Anacapa, a rocky off-Santa Barbara island, with the wind section playing especially well.

The second premiere was the Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, a single-movement by San Fernando Valley-based composer Kathleen Mayne. Here again a Mendocino County pianist, this time Elizabeth MacDougall, was the soloist. The writing was more conventional than the Anacapa Concerto, using the Sonata-Allegro form and starting with short but powerful octave passages. In contrast to the David Smith work, the emphasis here focused on the various treatments of the thematic material rather than conveying a landscape image. As with Casanova, Elizabeth MacDougall played with adroit phrasing and just the right amount of panache, lacking only a little more introspection and dynamic contrast. Both Smith and Mayne were present and took bows from the stage at the conclusion of the respective performances.

The afternoon’s finale was the Poulenc Concerto with MacDougall and Casanova returning to their pianos as soloists. This concerto, written in 1932, is one of the standards among the two-piano concerto repertoire and both artists were equal to the technical, musical, and ensemble demands of the work. Both soloists avoided succumbing to playing the Allegro ma non troppo and Allegro molto movements as merely a technical tour de force,, keeping the phrasing and tempos faithful to the composer’s directions. Perhaps the coda in the first movement could have been a more transparent and rhythmically elastic, setting up the final closing measures of the movement in sharper outline. The opening of the Larghetto was simply stated and the transition of the theme from Piano I to Piano II was seamless. Their colorful treatment of the opening theme was played with telling tenderness, superior to the famous recording of the LaBeque sisters. As with the opening movement, there could have been more elasticity in the transitions between thematic sections, but conductor Pfutzenreuter kept everything moving. Minor points perhaps in a charming performance full of lyricism. The last movement was played with energy and provided just enough playfulness to sustain momentum, the duo scale passages clean and in sync.

The Poulenc proved a fitting end to the concert, the third of the season, and drew a big ovation from the nearly 500 people in Center Theater