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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Alasdair Neale, conductor
Edward Abrams, guest conductor
Christine Brewer, soprano

Soprano Christine Brewer in Marin

OUTSIDE THE ROMANTIC PALE

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In a finale to a year of literature-based programs (“Season of the Scribe’) the Marin Symphony April 13 presented a curious mix of compositions that purported to have a common romantic theme. Preceding the sonic splendor of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and the “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde was an eclectic first half of works by Samuel Barber and contemporary composer David Carlson, both well outside the 19th-century romantic pale.

In the concert’s opening Second Essay for Orchestra of Barber, Music Director Alasdair Neale gave the baton to protégé Edward Abrams, and all went well with the 12-minute work from 1942. The strings were sonorous, with Mr. Abrams bringing balanced control to this concentrated piece. There was rich clarinet playing from principal Arthur Austin and a lovely trio with Mr. Austin, principal bassoonist Carla Wilson and oboist Margot Golding. The introspective nature of Barber’s popular piece, at least before the powerful climaxes and foreboding unison strings at the end, was artfully introduced by flutist Monica Daniel-Barker.

Prior to intermission the Symphony presented the world premiere of Carlson’s The Promise of Time, featuring soprano Christine Brewer. Based on dramatic lyrics by Susan Kinsolving, the three-movement work was part of a commissioning project by a Silicon Valley philanthropist that has benefited several Bay Area orchestras. Composed of three parts – “Blossoms Abundant,” “Velocity,” and “Hourglass” – the thick-textured work was not always cordial for Brewer’s powerful voice. The musical references seemed mostly to come from Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs,” an autumnal work from the post-World War II period just before Strauss’ death. In “Velocity,” Brewer sang with weighty projection, but the words, at least from the tenth row, were mostly unintelligible.

The more lyrical third movement, absent the vehement multiple crescendi of “Velocity,” and with themes rising from the depths of the orchestra, was telling. Mr. Neale, conducting from score, caught the nostalgic bent of the music, and it seemed a long-familiar work rather than something novel and demanding. The massive ending chords with cymbals and brass were thrilling. The composer and lyricist took bows with Mr. Neale and Ms. Brewer.

Following a long intermission, Mr. Neale conducted an assured Siegfried Idyll (1870) performance, offering brisk tempos without score or baton. The long clarinet solo from Mr. Austin joined with pungent playing from the oboes. It was elegant Wagner throughout, the conductor clearly relishing the long romantic lines after the histrionics of the concert’s first half.

The “Idyll,” one of Wagner’s few non-operatic works, led smoothly into Isolde’s panegyric to warmly receptive death. Ms. Brewer returned to stage center to pit her formidable voice against the large orchestra. She had all well in hand, with only the low range being covered by the orchestra, and her top notes resounded to the last row of seats. The Symphony’s five-member horn section, led by Alex Camphouse, gave potent support. It was exalted music making of a score that will never seem routine. Mr. Neale crafted the extended operatic phrases with care and visual attention to Brewer’s singing.

Oddly the great Wagner ode didn’t have an ecstatic effect on the nearly full house. There were the standard flowers for the soloist, but not a universal standing ovation or many recalls. The performance deserved more.