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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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, January 22, 2011
Enrique Diemecke, conductor
Sharon Isbin, guitar

Spanish Composer Joaquin Rodrigo

DYNAMIC DIEMECKE LEADS BOUYANT RODRIGO AND DISSONANT CHÁVEZ AT SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Robin Brown
Saturday, January 22, 2011

A nearly full house of Santa Rosa Symphony concert goers wildly applauded guest conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke Jan. 22 at Wells Fargo Center. Piazzola's “Tangazo” stood out as the most enjoyable score of the evening, and the final concert the set Jan. 24 is recommended.

Mr. Diemecke uses his whole body in conducting, including a close golpe (flat foot beat) and his entertaining signature "Ta-Dah" with arms extended laterally. He mimed a bowing violin and once used only fingertips to close an exciting pianissimo. Undoubtedly in demand for operas, Mr. Diemecke is a baton-less dancer, sexy in the most loveable, music-marriageable sense. His downbeat rarely has a bottom so players must carefully listen to each other. Surprisingly the conductor’s unique podium techniques were effective because the Symphony sounded even better than when I heard it last season, and his infectious zeal goes beyond conducting.

Women guitar soloists are rarissimo and I recall with sadness the guitar virtuoso Ida Presti's early death. The concert’s soloist for this evening, Sharon Isbin, was tastelessly advertised and attired in quasi country and western glitz. She came, saw but did not conquer because Mr. Diemecke led the Symphony to a peak performance, easily stealing the whole concert limelight. Ms. Isbin is a good professional guitarist but her nylon-strung classical guitar's modest voice can't compete with an orchestra tutti so she required directional microphone amplification. She won the audience in the Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez but, lacking of awareness or taste, Ms. Isbin chose to encore and to verbally pitch her CD lobby-sales and play a folksy arpeggio in an on-and-on solo encore. People applauded but not as enthusiastically as after the lovely, accessible Rodrigo masterwork. In the Concierto Ms. Isbin played well but lacked the incisive rasqueado strum of flamenco master accompanists. One closing rasgueado was actually zesty. Rodrigo is one of Spain's famous regional folk-music-inspired composers and has stated that his lovely, melancholic Adagio movement was born of his great love for his wife who at the time of composition was hospitalized in Paris. The royal castle garden in Aranjuez was their honeymoon site and Rodrigo became partially sighted at an early age and created mostly Braille music scores.

Ms. Isbin's performance technique confirms Andrés Segovia's advocacy of footstool under supporting leg, guitar-neck angled up to favor fingering wrist, both hands and finger positions. The great Spanish guitarist opened the world market for solo guitar classics by playing his many fine transcriptions, improving fingerings and encouraging composers. He encouraged, fingered and premiered in San Francisco a second Rodrigo guitar concerto, one of three he wrote from 1966 to 1982. One of Ms. Isbin's teachers, Oscar Ghiglia (of Rome), played his first Berkeley solo concert after assisting Segovia in the UC Berkeley Guitar Master Class.

The opening Suomalainen Tango by Pablo Ortíz (from Buenos Aires, 1956) remains a mystery to me. The composer who was in the audience stood to acknowledge the applause which then grew louder. Perhaps the orchestra players lacked rehearsal time for the Tango's counter-accents, but later they executed counter-accents well in the Piazzolla Tangazo (big tango) for Orchestra, also known as Variations on Buenos Aries. This was the highlight of the concert - bright, full of delightful surprises, a musician's joy by another of Argentina's sterling musicians! In the Rodrigo the Adagio movement competed favorably in execution.

Closing the concert was Chávez' Symphony No. 4, Sinfonía Romántico, a 21-minute work from 1953. This was a very late-romantic, highly dissonant, dense and darkly puzzling score. Mr. Diemecke, from Mexico, has often conducted this piece and drove his interpretation with a force that Chávez would have appreciated. The composer moved to New York after building “Sinfonía Nacional” and eventually heading the national conservatory in Mexico City where he had originally studied. Did this Chávez work presage a more violent Mexico? This Symphony concert and my questions close on a troubled note.

Robin Brown is Music Director of Santa Rosa’s Flamenco Arts, has taught guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory and Chico State University, and studied guitar with Alilio Díaz.