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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

Violinist and Composer Mark Volkert

PANDORA A BOX OF SONIC DELIGHTS AT FIRST SF SYMPHONY CONCERT IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 6, 2012

In what must be the fall season’s last blockbuster Green Music Center concert, the San Francisco Symphony played a long awaited program Dec. 6 to an almost full Weill Hall audience.There was a palpable excitement when concertmaster Alexander Barantchik and then conductor Michael Tilson Thomas entered and happily acknowledged loud applause from the assembly and standing orchestra members.

The first half was extraordinary, a champagne orgy of orchestral sound that began with Strauss’ early Op. 28 tone poem Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. String attacks and releases were impeccable and the violins and violas had a deep cohesive sound, playing off the wonderful horn parts. The trombones were brassy and sounded as one. Mr. Barantschik’s solo passages, including a delicious long descending scale midway in the boisterous composition, were virtuosic. William Bennett’s oboe playing was soulful and gracefully imitated a languorous human voice.

Mr. Thomas’ control of the interplay of instrumental sections, especially at low volume levels, was masterful.

Associate Concertmaster Mark Volkert stepped into the composer’s role before the halftime break as his orchestra played Pandora, an amazing twenty-three minute display piece for strings alone. The world premiere was the previous evening. Mr. Thomas provided introductory remarks for the work’s mythological origins and the Symphony launched into a mysterious introductory section of high violin sound. Solo passages were subsequently handed around, beginning with elegant playing by bassist Scott Pingel, cellist Peter Wyrick and ultimately an enchanting duo from Mr. Barantschik and stand partner Jeremy Constant. The conductor was able to balance the two lyrical sections and impetuous outbursts to telling effect. It was a brilliant antidote to the opulent harmonies of Strauss’ Til.

During this vehement but never violent piece the composer inserted intriguing effects, making a violin chirp like a flute and a horn part to resemble, albeit for a just moment, percussion sounds. Overall, there is an underlying menace to the writing and just a hint of Bartok’s pungent rhythms and Shostakovich’s sarcasm. The solo violin cadenza was deftly dispatched by Mr. Barantschik and another string duo, played by Mr. Wyrick and cellist Amos Yang, was beguiling.

Mr. Volkert is clearly a sovereign writer for strings and the performance was for me the evening’s highlight. Though long for a modern all-string composition, it merits joining the Orchestra’s repertoire.

Following intermission pianist Yefim Bronfman played Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto in E Flat, Op. 73. Known as the “Emperor” Concerto, the work abounds in mighty statements for soloist and orchestra and the music throughout commands a visceral potency. Mr. Bronfman gave a curious reading, patrician in concept but devoid of majesty or interest. His scales rippled and his fingers were faultless, but the phrasing was constantly square and heroics, inner voices and left-hand dynamic power were absent. It was irritatingly conventional, monochromatic and careful throughout.

The Orchestra played the concerto well in a low-voltage way, matching their sound to the soloist’s restrained interpretation. A standing ovation ensued.