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ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
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....
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, May 16, 2009
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Cecile Licad, piano

Cecile Licad

TURANGA-LITE IN SANTA ROSA

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Olivier Messiaen’s 10-movement Turangalîla-Symphonie is rarely performed because of its length (about an hour and a quarter) and its unusual instrumentation (the score calls for ondes martenot, vibraphone, and glockenspiel, among many other instruments). The double whammy makes performances of this 20th-century masterpiece hard to find — and fund.

For the second half of its May 16 concert, the Santa Rosa Symphony tried to solve the Turangalîla problem by performing only three movements without skimping on the instrumentation. In place of the other seven movements, they offered UCLA musicologist Robert Winter, who tried to explain what Turangalîla was all about to the presumably bewildered suburban audience.

Although Winter’s comments were occasionally insightful, they couldn’t atone for the basic fact that every minute of Winter was one less minute of Messiaen. At about 20 minutes, his introduction lasted nearly as long as the three-movement Turangalîla excerpt (pegged at 22 minutes in the program notes). With all due respect, Winter should have introduced the piece during an optional preconcert talk so the orchestra could have performed the entire work during the concert proper. Who cares about time (or words) when you’re listening to music as transcendent as Messiaen’s?

One reason for the Turanga-lite offering was the concert’s format, which hewed to the traditional short work and concerto in the first half, followed by a symphony in the second. In this case, the short work was Wagner’s “Nachtgesang” from Tristan und Isolde (another excerpt), and the concerto was Ravel’s G major for piano, performed splendidly by Cecile Licad.

Both these works were wonderful in themselves, but they became even more significant during the subsequent Turangalîla excerpt: the Wagner because it recounts the same love story as the Messiaen; the Ravel because it employs many of the same compositional techniques.

Under the watchful baton of Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, the cellos began the “Nachtgesang” sotto voce, barely rising above a whisper. The pace was luxuriously slow, and the stress of a long, hot day in Sonoma County seemed to flow out of the audience as Wagner’s “night of love” settled on them. The ensuing trumpet and trombone solos were crisply played, and the rest of the orchestra responded with long, flowing lines that sustained the amorous mood, however briefly.

The Ravel, which begins with the snap of a whip, marked an abrupt shift. Licad leaped into her treacherous lines with tremendous drive and energy, mouthing the key phrases as she stared at the keys. She generated considerable volume and sculpted her phrases flawlessly, even under the onslaught of Ravel’s continuous tremolos. When the jazz-inspired first movement ended, a sizable portion of the audience erupted in applause.

The same unconventional enthusiasm greeted Licad's playing of the second movement, which begins with a long, languorous piano solo. When the orchestra did finally enter, it seemed to be playing accompaniment for an entirely different piece. Here was the connection to Messiaen, who often sets various sections of the orchestra on distinct tracks that nonetheless cohere. The luxurious performance was marred only by a world-record attempt at unwrapping a cough drop, a sound that managed to carry across the balcony through much of the movement.

Any possibility of distraction was blown away during the third movement, which begins as a furious cascade of notes and gets ever so much more so by the end. Licad’s unflagging intensity was matched by the orchestra, in particular by a wonderful bassoon solo. Sadly, the standing ovation didn’t produce an encore.

The piano remained on stage for Turangalîla, but the pianist changed, rematerializing in the form of veteran Bay Area soloist Miles Graber, who shared the limelight with ondes martenot player Mary Chun. Both sat patiently, along with the rest of the orchestra, as Professor Winter expounded on Messiaen, but they kept the blood flowing by playing occasional excerpts at his bidding.

Winter’s introduction may have been helpful for some in the audience, but it was delivered at such a rapid clip and with such flippancy that enthusiasm soon waned. There seemed to be palpable relief when the music actually began.

The orchestra played movements 3, 4, and 5 of Turangalîla, beginning with “Turangalîla 1” (one of three movements whose name is the same as the symphony), continuing with “Chant d’Amour” (Song of love) and concluding with “Joie du Sang des étoiles” (Joy of the blood of the stars).

Ferrandis was completely unflappable, keeping a steady beat and delivering laser-sharp cues despite the music’s overwhelming complexity. The rhythmic variety of the opening movement gave way to the ethereal love song of the second, which featured Graber’s sparkling piano. Both, however, were overshadowed by the last movement, one of the most powerful works ever written for an orchestra.

From the supercharged beginning in the brass to the robust entrances of all the other sections and soloists, Ferrandis maintained a fever pitch of excitement and rhythmic drive. The orchestra seemed to hurl itself into this ecstatic dance, leaving no doubt about the movement’s underlying narrative. It was a rousing performance, beyond words in its intensity. What a pity it had to end so abruptly. Next time, perhaps, the words can be fewer and the music more.

[Reprinted with permission from San Francisco Classical Voice]