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Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor/Pianist Jeffrey Kahane

KAHANE’S TRIUMPHAL RETURN TO SANTA ROSA

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 22, 2012

On a day when several uncontrollable elements--lousy weather, football playoffs, hospital construction--conspired against them, guest conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane and the Santa Rosa Symphony packed the Wells Fargo Center by excelling at the one element firmly under their control: great music making. Kahane in particular had a fantastic day, returning in triumph to the orchestra he led for a decade, playing his heart out for a Mozart concerto, and reconnecting with musicians who clearly enjoy working with him.

The concert began with the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25, with Kahane conducting from the keyboard. The piano, sans lid, was centered between the violins and the lower strings, with the keyboard parallel to the front of the stage. From his position at the ivories, Kahane could make eye contact with every member of the reduced orchestra, which featured a small complement of strings, one flute, one timpanist, and pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets.

Kahane stood to conduct the opening of the first movement without benefit of baton or score. He used both arms energetically and coaxed a crisp and flawless sound from the attentive players. Sitting at the piano when his turn came to play, he continued to conduct with his head and sometimes with whatever hand happened to be free. Even as he navigated the trickiest passages, he gazed steadily at the orchestra, communicating via arched eyebrows, stern visages and occasional smiles.

Kahane is a wonderfully expressive pianist who articulates each phrase with the utmost precision. His hands are a marvel to watch, seeming to be utterly relaxed while sprinting up and down the keys with nary a missed step. His playing during the cadenza, which he wrote himself, was particularly enchanting. Here he embellished upon the theme, mixing elaborate ornaments with some unexpected dissonances, ultimately sounding a bit like Beethoven as he drove to the conclusion.

Where the first movement was dazzling, the second was all expression, one of those ineffable Mozart Andantes that seems to float on a cloud. The melodic line here is paramount, and both orchestra and pianist played it to the hilt, each note fully sustained and leading into the next.

The last movement, an infectious Rondo, began at a brisk pace and never let up. Kahane traded solos with the flute and principal cellist and then led the orchestra in an extended romp to the finish line. The ovation was immediate, with many loud cheers mixed in.

During his tenure with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Kahane made a point of championing certain 20th-century composers, such as Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tippett, whose place in the classical repertoire is open to debate. Despite his frequently performed piano concertos, Sergei Rachmaninoff is still a member of that club, so the appearance of his third symphony after intermission was something of a rarity. When musicians refer to “Rach 3,” they mean the piano concerto, not the symphony.

There’s little danger that the symphonic “Rach 3” will displace the pianistic one, but the symphony does have its merits, albeit few. The first movement begins promisingly with a Russian-sounding theme from the clarinets, but it shortly morphs into a lushly orchestrated haze, with one melodic idea drifting into another, like a luxury liner lost in the fog. Any development or compelling narrative is hard to discern.

The second movement begins in much the same way, but the structure here is more clearly defined, especially when the opening Adagio is displaced by a spirited Allegro vivace. Kahane kept the orchestra moving along during this section, eliciting great playing from the strings and a remarkable solo from the English horn.

After a festive beginning, the third movement settles into a fugue that displays Rachmaninoff’s gifts for orchestration. Seemingly everyone gets involved in the increasingly manic action, which is regularly interrupted by languid interludes. The playing was excellent throughout, and the frenetic ending verged on the spine-tingling.

The audience applauded vigorously, so much so that Kahane launched the players into a rare orchestral encore, in this case Johann Strauss’s “Fledermaus” overture. The haze of the Rachmaninoff was quickly displaced by the crystalline clarity of the Waltz King’s exquisite melodies and toe-tapping rhythms. Both Kahane and the musicians outdid themselves with a finely honed rendition that included several perfectly executed ritards and accelerandos, along with some dazzling solos, notably the lightning quick piccolo figure at the end.

Santa Rosa was very lucky to have a conductor of Kahane’s stature in the not-so-distant past, and it can only be hoped that he’ll be able to guest conduct on a regular basis in future seasons. He still resides in Santa Rosa, and his fans are many.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]