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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
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,
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014

Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire.

Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Minor Concerto, Op. 26, with his customary control and consistency. An old friend to the Concerto, Mr. Zuckerman played with fastidious if conventional phrasing through the three movements, and the ruminating Adagio elicited his most convincing virtuosity.

With conductor Alondra de la Parra keeping the orchestra mostly with the soloist, the gypsy rhythms of the finale allowed Mr. Zuckerman to dig into the strings and his quick appoggiaturas added spice. At times the violin line, a long romantic line in this poetic work, got lost in the orchestra fabric. There was a standing ovation from the 800 in the hall.

In a series of mostly Italian opera arias tenor James Valenti sang with firm control and balanced registers. He has an attractive stage presence and his voice, though this evening tending to the monochromatic, was especially rich in the baritone range. The Orchestra never covered Mr. Valenti even in Tosti’s dramatic “Ideale,” long a Pavarotti specialty, and Salvatore Cardillo’s lovely "Core ‘ngrato." There was a break from Italian with Lehar’s “Dein ist mein gazes herz”, and here Mr. Valenti emphasized the suave slow waltz rhythms that reminded me that Sigmund Romberg knew Lehar’s compositions.

There were three orchestra works interspaced in the program, beginning with a short and furious Overture from Bizet’s Carmen, and in the first half the famous Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. The Intermezzo’s tempo was judicious and Ms. de la Parra had a deft baton, changing the repeated phrases just slightly.

After intermission came Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, the G major one from 1889. The Sphinx made the most of the work’s two boisterous movements, and the gracious Allegretto based on a charming waltz theme was performed with élan. Throughout the Symphony the conductor coaxed colorful and piquant effects from the orchestra, but with sporadic instrumental blemishes in horns and winds. Ms. de la Parra conducted without score but with a secure Dvorak flair.

This Orchestra, founded 16 years ago to spotlight Afro-American and Latino musicians, had the high string power that non-professional ensembles seldom have, but also lacked the string polish and articulation of top-drawer symphonies.