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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

Jeffrey Kahane and Bruno Ferrandis

BENEFIT FOR CHILDREN, BOON FOR MUSIC LOVERS

by Steve Osborn
Thursday, May 22, 2014

For its postseason concert on May 22, the Santa Rosa Symphony--together with piano soloist Jeffrey Kahane and conductor Bruno Ferrandis--played for free. The money they would otherwise have earned will be used to benefit more than 20,000 children served by the Symphony's extensive outreach efforts, which include four youth orchestras, free concerts for elementary schoolchildren, and various school-based music activities. Over the years, these efforts have produced a steady stream of musicians and music lovers, a key factor in helping classical music thrive in the North Bay.

In a sign of the times, the concert began with a cell phone going off just as the orchestra was preparing to launch into Carl Maria von Weber's overture to his 1826 opera "Oberon." Everyone paused while the guilty party silenced the device, and then the orchestra began anew, this time with a French horn instead of a cell phone. Conducting without a score, Ferrandis ushered the musicians through a spirited performance marked by many sudden transitions and a well-controlled rhythmic flexibility. The brass and basses were particularly strong, taking advantage of Weill Hall's superb acoustics to project a resonant tone.

True to its form, the overture set the stage for the main event: two beloved piano concertos by Beethoven (No. 3) and Chopin (No. 2) performed by conductor laureate Kahane, who led the Symphony from 1995 to 2006. Equally at home as a conductor or a soloist, Kahane assumed the latter duties and left the conducting to Ferrandis. The two men seemed to read each other's minds throughout the concert, and they were never in conflict.

Opening with the Beethoven, Ferrandis set a brisk tempo in the long introduction, crafting a tremendous buildup to the piano's eventual entry. Kahane picked up where the orchestra left off, playing his opening phrases with authority and utmost precision. He is a wonderful pianist to watch. His body language, while never extravagant, telegraphs full immersion in the music. One of his characteristic poses is to lean back during expressive passages, stare into space, and let his fingers glide across the keys. For more intense passages, he leans in, bearing down on the notes and then leaping off at the end of phrases.

The opening movement is a classic example of motivic development, in which a short musical phrase is stated and restated in various guises. Kahane and Ferrandis brought out each statement astutely, highlighting the movement's structure and creating a powerful sense of forward motion. The balance throughout was excellent, with Kahane's quietest passages fully audible and never drowned out.

That quietude dominated the Largo second movement, which was as dulcet as the first was forceful. Kahane's playing was luxuriant, his feathery touch bringing forth a gentle river of sound. The notes flowed into each other, almost as if they hadn't been individually struck. The most dramatic passages were the quietest ones, perched just on the edge of evanescence.

In contrast, the finale was a boisterous Rondo that found Kahane hitting strong off-beat accents and sprinting through a cascade of runs. His energy was matched by the orchestra, which stayed with him beat for beat all the way to the rousing conclusion. The standing ovation from the nearly full house was immediate and sustained. "That was unbelievable," said my neighbor to his companion.

After intermission, that same neighbor advised his companion to "sit back and enjoy." He was referring to the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2, a virtuosic showcase for the soloist, with the orchestra relegated to a minor role. Composed when Chopin was only 20, the concerto is filled with youthful enthusiasm and, in the second movement, heartfelt romantic longing.

Kahane proved indefatigable throughout. His light touch is one of his greatest strengths, and he had plenty of opportunity to play at the softest of dynamics, with the orchestra barely audible in the background. He was at his softest in the languid second movement, with its dominant trills and operatic contours. Chopin intended the movement as an expression of his love for a young singer, and the yearning is evident, with one gentle shower of notes after another. In Kahane's hands, the effect was otherworldly, particularly in the middle section, where the piano line floats above a hushed string tremolo.

All is not sweetness and light, however. The outer movements have many driving passages, and Kahane attacked these vigorously. In the Allegro vivace finale, with its mazurka rhythms, his fingers went impossibly fast without ever missing a note. His interpretation emphasized happiness rather than drama, and he kept dancing all the way to the end, which was greeted with another standing ovation.

As the applause continued, Kahane settled down for an encore, Chopin's Nocturne in D flat. It was a fitting end for the concert, which began early in the evening with light streaming through Weill Hall's many windows and was now enveloped in darkness.

Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.