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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 Bruno Ferrandis

SR SYMPHONY REVS UP SEASON WITH POWERFUL OPENER

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 6, 2012

For the Santa Rosa Symphony’s first-ever subscription concert in the Green Music Center Oct. 6, Bruno Ferrandis chose three works with the potential to show off the center’s vaunted acoustics. All three--Mozart’s overture to “The Magic Flute,” Mahler’s first symphony, and a world premiere by composer-in-residence Edmund Campion--feature brass and percussion, along with a dynamic range that starts below pianissimo and builds to triple forte.

By and large, the acoustics matched the promise. The Mahler in particular evolved into a tremendous sonic display, and the Mozart was not far behind. The exception was the new piece, “The Last Internal Combustion Engine,” in which the manifold orchestral exertions managed to drown out the amplified soloists, the cutting-edge Kronos String Quartet. Or at least that’s how it sounded from my seat in the Choral Circle behind the stage.

“Combustion,” as the piece may some day be known, combines electronic and acoustic instruments in an uneasy mixture that gives hints of the combustible without fully igniting. The first indication of the clash of old and new was on the stage itself, where a tangle of wires hung from the otherwise traditional semicircle of chairs for the soloists. Some of these wires connected to headphones that the first and second violinists donned upon entering the stage. Others presumably linked to a computer and keyboard manned by the orchestra’s pianist, Kymry Esainko, back in the percussion section.

The piece began with the quiet sound of wood blocks tapped in an insistent rhythm. After a brief electronic flurry, the strings got into the act, with the players hitting their strings with the backs of their bows, an ancient technique known as “col legno.” Other instruments gradually joined in, but the emphasis throughout was on forward-moving percussive sounds, with Mr. Ferrandis giving a strong cut-time beat: one and two and one and two. Given the title and the obvious sonic comparisons to an engine, the effect was of a car surging down a lonely highway late at night, its headlights illuminating an eerie landscape.

At some point the Kronos entered the fray, but they were hard to hear above the roaring engine, despite their amplification. They finally came to the fore in a quieter section, but by then they seemed like an afterthought. It was hard to know where they fit into the scheme. Were they parts of the engine or simply passengers?

The concluding moments were the most memorable, as the various sections of the orchestra stopped playing their instruments and began waving toy cars in the air. After a while, the only sound to be heard was the spinning of little wheels, propelled not by combustion but rather by hand.

Gustav Mahler was born too long ago (1860) to play with toy cars as a child, but his first symphony, also known as “The Titan,” contains many child-like melodies in its evocations of landscape and village life. The most obvious occur in the second movement, with its peasant dance, and the third, with its famous minor-key rendition of “Frere Jacques.” The symphony itself, however, grows far beyond the child-like, combining those melodies with far more adult ones to create one of the great masterpieces of the repertoire.

Playing “The Titan” is a daunting prospect, but Ferrandis and Co. were mostly up to the task. The hushed beginning with its seven octaves of A demonstrated that the Green can handle quietude as well as amplitude. The offstage trumpets were effective, and the long crescendo was well controlled. Mr. Ferrandis’ tempo, however, was a bit slow, and the many French horns (eight by my count) were sometimes uneven.

Similar problems plagued the second movement. The tempo was again too deliberate, and now it was the trumpets’ turn to sound ragged. But the cellos, who begin the movement with a lively dance step, sounded terrific. The ubiquitous wood in the hall really seems to resonate with the lower strings, a situation that will undoubtedly improve as the auditorium wood ages and hardens.

The third movement began with an excellent bass solo, followed by the various melodic snippets that evoke both the funereal and the playful. Uniting all these disparate strands is hard work, but the orchestra met the challenge and carried their success forward into the riveting final movement. The playing here was truly moving, particularly from the strings, who played with spot-on intonation and deep expressivity. As the movement roared towards its conclusion, the clarinets leaned back in their chairs, projecting their instruments skyward. The French horns soon followed suit, standing up to deliver the final triumphant melody, this time in perfect coordination. The sustained applause for both orchestra and conductor was well deserved.

The concert, which concluded with “The Titan,” began with another bit of magic, the overture to “The Magic Flute.” Here the horns rang out at the beginning with a full-bodied, tangible sound that set the stage for the rest of the concert. The string entry, by contrast, was delicate and well controlled. Mr. Ferrandis conducted the overture with restraint, his hands rarely venturing above shoulder height. As with the Mahler, the tempo was deliberate, but the unanimity of the playing compensated for the lack of speed.