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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, February 13, 2010
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Berenika, piano

Berhzad Ranjbaran

THREE HITS AND A MISS AT SRSO CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the fifth set of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts in the current season, conductor Bruno Ferrandis programmed a world premiere and ended with a familiar Schumann symphony. In between were Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto, Op. 21, with soloist Berenika Zakrzewski, and Schumann's "Manfred" overture.

Berhzad Ranjbaran’s “Mithra” was the premiere, part of the Magnum Opus series of new works commissioned by a Silicon Valley philanthropist and played subsequently by three Bay Area orchestras. It was a fetching composition, with fine playing from the Orchestra and good control of sonic balance from Mr. Ferrandis. In three sections, beginning with a haunting flute solo by Kathleen Lane Reynolds, the work spotlights low-register strings, with many short motives competing for prominence. Bits, but only bits, of Shostakovich orchestra color populate the first section, the woodwind slides intriguing and combining with piquant notes from marimba. The middle section, faster and with no less intensity than the opening part, was energetically played. Mr. Ranjbaran has a consummate command of orchestration and instrumental color.

After two sets of what can be called four-note “thuds,” a lyrical harp solo from Randall Pratt introduced a lofty flute passage, creating a bucolic effect with the violins playing with diminished vibrato. The final chords, carefully paced by Ferrandis, magically brought the 15-minute piece to a gentle end. Ms. Reynolds’ sui generis work with the flute is a pillar of the Orchestra. One wonders why she hasn’t played a formal recital here in many years. Are there any flute recitals anymore?

Berenika (the stage name she prefers to use) was less than impressive in the Chopin concerto, a luscious composition built on thematic designs from the Italian operas the composer loved. Mostly she didn’t have a musical clue of the subtlety and lyrical richness of the work, and for this writer it was the least professional performance of a concerto heard within memory in Wells. Looking back to past SRSO performances of standard repertoire, Lang Lang camped and banged his way through the Rachmaninoff Third many years ago, but understood the grandeur of the work. More recently Jonathan Biss played a boring Schumann A Minor Concerto, at least until the finale, but understood the composer’s rhythmic delights.

Here the tempos Mr. Ferrandis used, nearly throughout, generated muddy passages in fast scales from Berenika and lack of cogent phrasing. The reading was as fast as the ne plus ultra of Op. 21 recordings, the Hofmann/Barbirolli/NY Philharmonic from 1938, even though Barbirolli takes a long cut in the orchestra introduction. There never was a really adept use of pianistic rubato in the entire performance. But the lack of lyricism in Chopin’s beguiling themes was the key defect of Berenika’s playing. An example of this of this could be found at measure 306, in the apex of the cadenza, where Chopin writes a descending right-hand detaché figure followed immediately by florid 16-note phrase, each tone worthy of attention and meaning. Berenika simply played through it without any thought to its majesty and expressive character. It was also difficult to hear her bass chords, even the final one in F Minor after the right hand trill.

The enchanting Larghetto, perhaps Chopin’s most sublime concerted movement, proceeded at a more relaxed pace, but here again the soloist tended to rush into each phrase, missing the tenderness that makes the movement a connoisseur's favorite, and even the subject of several solo transcriptions. Berenika played “on top” of the keys, never getting an opulent sound from the instrument. The finale (Allegro vivace) was the best of the night’s playing. The right-hand skips were nailed, and there was rhythmic interest in this rollicking Rondo. But it was still small-scale playing, pedaling covering clarity in scales, the whole sounding like an conservatory student in a rehearsal run-through.

Schumann’s large orchestral works clearly are close to Mr. Ferrandis’ heart. In the second half, he conducted the Op. 115 “Manfred” Overture in E-Flat Major, Op. 115, and the grand D Minor Symphony, the Fourth, Op. 120. Both benefited by the conductor’s sense of the “long line” needed to carry Schumann’s more somber symphonic pieces. So different from the joyous “Rhenish” Third Symphony, the D Minor only has joy in the concluding Langsam-Lebhaft, but under Ferrandis’ baton the music was riveting. Flutist Bonnie Lockett was a perfect match for her section mate Reynolds in the energetic opening movement. Acting principal cellist Robin Bonell opened the A Minor Romanze with a lovely solo, the Orchestra then playing to the solo violin passages of Concertmaster Joseph Edelberg.

In the final two movements Mr. Ferrandis essentially abandoned looking at the score in front of him, his identification with Schumann’s vitality was so thorough. He has a sweeping ability to balance sectional resonance and volume, difficult to do in both the Symphony and the shorter, convoluted Overture.

The final movement, in D Major, was characterized by fine trumpet playing from Doug Morton and Dan Norris, and equally effective trombone work of Amy Bowers, Kurt Patzner and David Kunkle. The nearly full house provided warm applause to the players, with the conductor surely relishing the radiance his artistry brought to two of Schumann’s dark but edifying works.