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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
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.