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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
Vallejo Symphony / Sunday, January 25, 2015
David Ramadanoff, conductor. Corey Fischer, narrator; Eric Tran and Nathan Cheung, piano

Martin, Ramadanoff, Chueng, Tran Jan. 25 (E. Warnimont photo)

ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT

by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015

A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay.

Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon audience with interesting and amusing descriptions of the classic works for piano and orchestra, beginning with Respighi's “La Primavera,” which the composer based on the famous painting of the same name by Botticelli. Mr. Ramadanoff noted that “Respighi captures for me the feeling of the very beginning of spring. The sights and smells invite you to step out and enjoy. You'll hear the wind blowing through the trees, then a horn calls us to come out and play.”

The Orchestra’s violin section was precise in this concert, opening the Respighi brilliantly with a beautiful depiction of gentle wind rustling leaves as it passes through trees freshly awoken from their winter sleep. A quiet flute sound rounded out the effect, a feeling that was at once soothing and exciting. Equally evocative at the performance was the sound of the bassoon, which seemed to be representative of a dancer celebrating the season. The work then transitions into a set of varying dance movements, and the tempo begins to change repeatedly until culminating with a full and assertive “ta-da!” finale, which boomed dramatically through the hall.

“Primavera” also provided a glimpse of the agility and sensitivity of pianists Nathan Cheung and Eric Tran, popularly known as the “Happy Dog Duo.” In remarks to the audience Mr. Tran explained “We were on a plane, on our way home from a competition, and started a shared composition game to pass the time. We decided the result sounded like a happy dog.” Tucked away to the rear of the ensemble, the two pianos’ sound carried beautifully, providing a fine complement to Respighi's extraordinary salute to the magic of springtime.

Following was Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, a playful annotation of the fairytale in which young Peter ignores his grandfather's cautioning and wanders into the meadow where wolves are known to prowl. “When I first heard 'Peter' (as a child), I was caught by how Prokofiev wrote for the instruments that described the animals so well. I was captivated,” Mr. Ramadanoff recalled in his “Know the Score” talk before the performance. The conductor treated the audience to a part-by-part demonstration of the various sound effects in the story. “The part of the bird will be played by the flutes, like this,” he began, as a flute played a segment of birdsong sound. “And here's the duck, played by the oboe,” and so forth. This elementary lesson brought the audience into the realm of childhood storytelling and frame of mind for appreciation of the piece, a rich celebration of the art of the story and the imagination of children.

Peter and the Wolf was conducted by Assistant Conductor Pamela Martin, and narrated by actor, director, playwright and musician Corey Fischer. Mr. Fischer is best known for his acting parts in early Robert Altman films and several 1970s television sitcoms including “M*A*S*H.” Ms. Martin's conducting style was exciting and fluid, and the narration melded with the music without any sense of abrupt interruption. Mr. Fischer’s voice is smooth and sculpted, and his range and tempo complemented the symphonic tale. “All is quiet,” chirped the bird, “All is quiet, all is quiet,” he read, followed by sweet sounds from the flute. “Then a duck came waddling round,” he told, as the oboe came in with lower-register quacking sounds. Some of the most carefree moments in the piece come as the duck and the bird are heard to argue, a clear tonal image with a delightful, playful pace, contrasted with the mildly ominous sound of the wolf later approaching the oblivious Peter. There was a palpable building sound of trembling cello and bass instruments.

For the work two concert grand pianos had been brought to the forefront of the Hogan stage, one nestled behind the other so the two pianists could face each other. It created the illusion of one ultra-long instrument with a keyboard at either end.

Rimsky-Korsakov's “Flight of the Bumblebee” began the second half, flawlessly executed by the two soloists. Their pristine performance left the audience breathless, and the performance was so swift and pure it seemed by the time a listener had a moment to contemplate the wonder of the music it was finished.

Completing the afternoon's concert was St. Saëns’ 12-movement The Carnival of the Animals, written in 1886. “St.-Saëns lived an incredibly long life,” Mr. Ramadanoff began in his introduction to the piece, and he was “…born eight years after Beethoven died and he lived into the 20th century to hear the music of Debussy and Stravinsky, which he detested.” He was a consummate composer as well as an avid scientist, and wrote The Carnival of the Animals simply to delight his friends and students.

For each of the twelve parts between the Introduction and Finale, Mr. Fischer again provided lively narrative. In “Turtles,” for example, he said the composer plays a little joke.. The movement begins with a familiar, fast-paced can-can theme, and then slows the melody down to a turtle's pace. Likewise, in “The Elephant,” a delicate dance theme develops into a heavy, plodding march. One especially entertaining part in Carnival is “Kangaroos,” where a musical conversation between the two solo pianos mimics the hopping of the comical marsupials.

The most delightful movement in “Carnival” is the eighth, “Aquarium,” which features rippling sounds from the pianos, rich and “swimming” violins, and the aural image of light sparkling on the water's surface provided by a glockenspiel. For those moments especially, the orchestra’ playing was ravishing.

Mr. Ramadanoff's final concert after more than 30 years at the helm of the VSO is April 12, and subsequently a new conductor and several Orchestra musicians will be named for the next season. This concert will be in Landers Hall, larger in seating than Hogan, and is located at 1310 Club Dr., Mare Island, Vallejo. The theme “Serenité” will include works by Bartok, Debussy, Ravel and TBA. Tickets are $15 to $35, and are available by calling (707) 643-4441 or at www.vallejosymphony.org.