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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, May 3, 2014
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker

OUT OF MANY, ONE

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 3, 2014

The title of the Santa Rosa Symphony's May 3 concert at Weill Hall was "Spring Rhapsody," and the music contained therein was indeed rhapsodic, ranging from the youthful exuberance of Debussy, to the sparkling wit of Rachmaninoff, to the pagan energy of Stravinsky. But the real rhapsody was the Symphony's ability, along with conductor Bruno Ferrandis and piano soloist Jon Kimura Parker, to bring each of those pieces to vibrant life. The playing was inspired from beginning to end, with no glitches to break the spell.

Piano soloist Parker was the embodiment of inspired playing. Preparing to perform Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," he assumed a rock-solid posture on the piano bench, his feet firmly planted, his eyes glued to the keys, his hands poised for action. He rarely deviated from that pose throughout the performance, concentrating all his energy into his hands.

Those hands proved capable of almost anything, whether bouncing off the keys or exercising the utmost delicacy of touch. His attack was so prodigious that he never had trouble making himself heard. Every note was distinct, every phrase complete.

The Rhapsody consists of 24 variations on a familiar theme by Paganini. They range from classical variations on melodic elements to more distant versions that are only tangentially related to the theme. Parker accentuated the differences between the variations, making each one distinct while continuing to drive the piece forward. By the time he arrived at the famous 18th variation, he was in overdrive, building up the lush romantic theme from pianissimo to triple forte in a thrilling display of power.

Ferrandis and the Symphony matched Parker bar for bar, offering a perfect balance to his solo flights. When the Rhapsody was over, Parker flung his arms out to the sides and rushed up to the podium to embrace Ferrandis. The two had clearly connected, and the Symphony players responded warmly, along with the audience, which rose to its feet for a sustained ovation.

Earlier, the Symphony opened the concert with a strong reading of Debussy's "Printemps," a youthful work firmly rooted in Impressionism. The two-movement piece contains many of the composer's characteristic elements, including luscious melodies, atmospheric writing and graceful fluidity. Ferrandis brought all these out, at times resorting to agitated hand gestures to produce adequate vibrato from the strings.

The first movement featured a wonderful viola solo by Meg Titchener, and the second concluded with an unexpected sprightly dance theme, which emerged from the dense tapestry of sound like a ray of sunlight. It was a captivating ending to a rarely performed youthful gem.

The real gem of the evening, however, came after intermission: Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." This landmark piece, now 101 years old, fundamentally altered music, and it remains as thrilling as ever. Rarely has anyone employed the full orchestra to such telling effect. Each type of instrument, from the piccolo to the string bass, has its own distinct line, and the unending variety of their combinations fully engages the senses.

The first thing you notice about the Rite is the immensity of the orchestra. The woodwind, brass and percussion sections are doubled or tripled in size, so much so that they rival the number of string players. With this rebalancing, everyone gains equal importance, and the old notion of an orchestra being dominated by the first violins is thrown to the wind.

Ferrandis took a well-controlled approach to the Rite, stressing rhythmic exactitude above all else. The piece is notorious for its many syncopations and other rhythmic challenges, but Ferrandis was unfazed, beating the constantly changing time signatures with a steady hand and an unvarying internal metronome. His tempi were by turns brisk and restrained.

The playing throughout was exemplary, from Carla Wilson's haunting bassoon solo at the opening to the no-holds-barred full orchestra at the end. While the Rite is known for its boisterous passages and its propulsive rhythms, there are as many slow sections as fast ones. These calms between the storms featured some of the most expressive playing of the evening.

For sheer excitement, however, nothing could match the storms. The orchestra was particularly malleable when playing these, shifting in and out of them with dramatic flair. Perhaps the most vivid image of the evening was of one percussionist virtually hurling himself into the bass drum, which shook from the force of his blow.

The performance was an object lesson in what orchestras are all about: out of many, one. Each instrument had a distinct voice, and their interactions led to a unified whole. During the sustained ovation at the end, Ferrandis asked more than a dozen soloists and sections to stand before bidding the entire orchestra to rise.

Afterward, as the audience made its way out, one woman remarked to her companion, "How does somebody put all the notes together for something like that?" That's a difficult question to answer, but the results are nonetheless spectacular, as the Symphony made abundantly clear.