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Recital
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

College of Marin Orchestra Conductor Tara Flandreau

TWO HALVES WITH A FEW HOLES

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 22, 2009

After many decades of attending concerts, a listener (or reviewer) faces a tough decision after hearing a first half that in some way is not a complete artistic whole. Leave early or stay for the promising second part? In almost every case not hearing the music that follows intermission would be a mistake. It was thus at the College of Marin (COM) Symphony Orchestra’s concert Nov. 22 at Unity Church on the old Hamilton Air Force Base.

Just two works comprised the program, the first being the most popular of all piano concertos, Tchaikovsky’s No. 1 in B Flat, Op. 23. COM faculty pianist Paul Smith made a heroic effort as the soloist to make the best of a less-than-ideal set of circumstances. The hall, packed with extra seats in the aisles, was overly bright with a long reverberation. The piano was not of professional caliber, and the orchestra, under the baton of Tara Flandreau, experienced pesky intonation problems and inconsistent brass playing. That said, the first movement unfolded with pliant string sounds, fluent but conventional phrasing from the conductor, and the wonderful clarinet playing of David Treganowen. Mr. Treganowen, along with flutist Bruce Salvisberg and bassoonist Karen Wright, played elegantly all afternoon. Mr. Smith’s cadenza, using a lot of pedal in an attempt to generate sound from the instrument, was in the grand manner if not in the middle of the Russian romantic tradition.

In the Adagio, the orchestra’s persistent covering of the soloist disappeared, and a more satisfying interplay of lines appeared. The long trills from the piano were evenly shaped, and the fetching themes were stated with dignity.

Tchaikovsky’s concluding movement has equitable balances between the piano and orchestra, and Ms. Flandreau was in no hurry to get anywhere. Right up to the famous ascending forte octave passage for piano, the orchestra played well. Mr. Smith made the most of these octaves, using half-pedal and getting as much sound as the instrument would give. He didn’t choose the left-hand octave tremolo at the final tutti. A standing ovation ensued.

Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony is a daunting prospect for a non-professional orchestra, the technical demands to the last desk heavy and nearly always exposed. But the 1937 work brought a sharply different orchestra than was heard in the Tchaikovsky, the attacks and releases more sure, the strings more resonant. There was more security of pitch for the brass section, and the addition of the accompanying piano and electronic celesta was welcome. In the opening Moderato, the big sound was clear, and the tempo was steady. Piccolo soloist Dawna Stebbins played with penetrating clarity. Virtuosic playing in the second movement came from Ms. Wright and from the pizzicato unisons in the strings.

The long Largo, a precursor to Hovhanness’ “Mysterious Mountain” Symphony, was taken at an overly relaxed tempo, but it also left plenty of time for the counterpoint from Messrs. Salvisberg and Treganowen and the beguiling harp playing of Michelyn French. A threnody, the sad march moved deliberately along, the harp and celesta parts in a duo which echoed much of the composer’s more dissonant and longer Fourth Symphony (1936).

Ms. Flandreau brought to the Allegro non troppo the requisite power, the return of the march theme again having the benefit of precision string playing and the reiteration of the “A” notes in the violins. The tympani solo (Robert Jakubs) was positively militaristic, a sober introduction to the carnage of the finale, where Ms. Flandreau carefully slowed the tempo to the last potent chords, holding the audience breathless.

Shostakovich’s mighty creation always generates a standing ovation, and it received one here.