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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...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Giancarlo Guerreo

POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE

by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 1, 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 presenting Classical and Romantic repertoire as well as 20th and 21st century Polish composers such as Lutoslawski, Pawel Mykietyn and Pärt. Their extensive repertoire extends to European and even American compositions as well.

The program started with Lutoslawski’s Symphonic Variations. The Variations, championed originally by conductor George Fitelberg in Warsaw, begins with a short melodic theme for flute followed by sometimes chaotic sounding sections alternating with returns to the melodic theme. Included in the brilliant orchestral writing are aleatoric sections, times of chance and confusion which then return to order and simplicity, where the musicians play without the direct cues from a conductor.. It was apparent in the first minutes that this was an extraordinary symphony orchestra and Weill Hall acoustics allowed the full richness and variety of timbres to glow and burn bright.

The excitement of great 20th century Polish masters continued with the Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Joining the orchestra was Bomsori Kim, an exciting and brilliant violinist soloist. After moving from the Ukraine to Warsaw Szymanowski wrote this splendid work consisting of one long movement divided into three sections, and it seems It was inspired by a romantic love poem and the orientalist movement popular at the time in Paris. Over a landscape of murmuring orchestral sounds the violin soars in high registers, a marvel of delicacy with inner power which Ms. Bomsori executed with breathtaking beauty and clarity throughout the piece. A textured scene with birdlike calls, glissandi and heartwarming rich low viola sounds from the solo violin led back to etherial violin harmonics. High drama and passages of dancelike rhythms and trumpet calls intertwined. The ensemble playing of soloist and orchestra and also within the orchestra itself was magical. Mr. Guererro led with energy and explosive expressiveness. At times he seemed to be a magician, leading from the physical world to transcendent realms, to a heightened sonic reality.

After an intermission, Brahms’ C Minor Symphony (No. 1) Op. 68, recalled an earlier era. Born in 1833, Brahms lived in the symphonic shadow of Beethoven and it took him 14 years to compose his first symphony. It is a symphony with extremes of sound and drama, and It is often relentless in its path and unsettling until the final march to hope and light. The first movement features timpani and driving melodies with moments of calmness headed towards the transforming C Major harmony. The second movement in E major is cheerful with some dark elements lurking. The third movement again has the dual personality of pastoral character juxtaposed with fanfares and a restless pizzicato bass.

The “epic” finale starts with solemnity and a sudden leap into a theme in homage to Beethoven’s ninth symphony, and it is a powerful movement and Mr. Guerrero led the NFM with careful attention to section balances. The climax was exhilarating. This was an orchestral performance of supreme and relentless commitment. It was almost unbearably intense and the true transformative glory of the final C Major was powerful.

A standing ovation brought the conductor back for an encore, a joyful and rollicking Slavonic Dance No. 8 by Dvorák, a composer championed by Brahms. While the orchestra played, clearly enjoying this dance time, Mr. Guerrero sauntered around the stage, interacting with musicians and audience with humorous pantomime. The audience was enchanted!. What followed was more humor, the orchestra playing Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Waltz while their conductor did an even more extreme pantomime of approval, disapproval, bafflement and all manner of clown expressions.

By the end, the audience was completely in love, with the orchestra, the conductor, and with the wonder of great music.

Nicki Bell contributed to this review