Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Recital
HEROIC LIM PERFORMANCE AT STEINWAY SOCIETY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Chamber
SURPRISING IVES TRIO AND SONGS AT VMMF'S HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Chamber
SEMINAL SCHUBERT CYCLE PERFORMANCE FROM STEGALL-ZIVIAN AT VMMF
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Opera
MARIN'S STRIPPED-DOWN OPERA CHARMS
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
MOZART AND BRAHMS AN AUSPICIOUS COUPLE AT VMMF FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
CLARINIST HOEPRICH'S VIRTUOSITY IN VMMF OPENING CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Recital
AGGRESSIVE PIANISM IN MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Opera
SONOROUS WAGNER GALA AND CAPACITY CROWD AT VALLEJO'S EMPRESS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Alasdair Neale

PROPULSIVE BERLIOZ AND CONSUMMATE CONDUCTOR STAR AT MARIN SYMPHONY

by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It’s not an easy task to upstage the virtuoso cellist Zuill Bailey, but Marin Symphony conductor Alasdair Neale did it convincingly in a Sept. 30 concert at the Marin Center Auditorium.

Mr. Bailey didn’t easily relinquish the starring role and played an eloquent and urbane performance in St. Saëns’ First Concerto, Op. 33, from 1872. For Mr. Bailey, a North Coast favorite, it was a surprisingly low temperature performance that had fast tempos and at times a legato that blurred scale passages. In the Allegretto the cellist displayed a deft pianissimo, spicatto bowing and even trills. In the finale both Mr. Neale and Mr. Bailey adopted a restrained approach to this mellifluous music that showcased a long thematic line that was everywhere reminiscent of the composer’s Introduction and Rondo for Violin and Orchestra, written nine years before the Concerto.

Timing in the short first half generated a crowd-pleasing encore, and not for this soloist was the usual movement from a Bach unaccompanied Suite. It was the captivating five-minute Intermezzo entr’acte from Massenet’s opera Thaďs. Here Mr. Bailey broadened his vibrato and played the lovely melody seamlessly merging with the Marin musicians and especially harpist Don Leviton. At the end the motionless Mr. Neale held the audience in a fermata, letting the magical silence play out for 15 seconds.

Following intermission the Symphony unleashed a demonic performance of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, guided by the conductor’s conception of a sonic extravaganza. This hall has a direct sound with little reverberation, seemingly favoring in this work the lower frequencies of six basses and eight cellos. All through the five-movement symphony that lasted just short of an hour the conductor relished moderate tempos, never rushing in voice leadings to the big climaxes. And there were many big climaxes.

In the lovely waltzes of the second movement Mr. Neale eschewed big ritards and elastic rhythms, emphasizing instead strict rhythms, section balances and tonal richness. Clarinetist Arthur Austin and flutist Monica Daniel-Barker played fetching duos.

For me the instrumental highlight of the evening was the delicate and haunting English horn solos that began the “Scene in the Fields” movement. Laura Reynolds was the performer in music that Wagner clearly knew when he composed the equally haunting Prelude to Act III of “Tristan und Isolde.” The wind choir and violas played wonderfully. Mr. Neale’s control and concentration was complete and only sporadically did he look at the score. The string pizzicato playing in the March to the Scaffold movement was telling, as was the sonority of chimes, tuba (two of them, and two harps!) trombones and bassoon in the Dies Irae theme of the Witches Sabbath conclusion. Mr. Neale gave each repeat a slightly different character that lent novel interest to this propulsive and raucous movement. A standing ovation followed the final tumultuous chords, and it was surely a tribute to both orchestra’s playing and the conductor’s bold conception and consummate control of Berlioz’ sprawling composition.

The concert opened with Bernstein’s Overture to the operetta “Candide,” fast and with trumpets blaring. With the stage packed with performers, many more than were needed in the St. Saëns Concerto, the performance of this popular concert opener was swift, muddy in texture and actually too loud.