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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 / Sunday, May 3, 2015
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Abigail Fischer, mezzo-soprano. Women's Chorus of the SRS Honor Choir, Robert Worth, director, Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, Carol Menke, director

Mezzo soprano Abigail Fischer

SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY MASTERS MAHLER'S THIRD

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 3, 2015

Among Romantic symphonists, Mahler is the king of climaxes; he surges from one to the next orgiastically. His third symphony is a perfect example: It begins strong, fades to quietude, resurges to maximum amplitude, and repeats the process. For listeners willing to ride these waves, the experience can be unforgettable.

The Santa Rosa Symphony's performance of Mahler's epic work, in Weill Hall on a gloomy Sunday in early May, rewarded listeners amply. Under the inspired leadership of Bruno Ferrandis, the orchestra delivered a Mahler Third that remains etched in the mind.

The first notes, from no less than nine French horns, were bold, confident, and heraldic. The horns started loud and ended soft, punctuated by the beats of a huge bass drum on the other side of the stage. The notes rang out brightly, thanks in part to Weill Hall's superb acoustics. Only a slight discord on the top note marred the horn section's otherwise exemplary unison playing.

The horns dominated the long first movement, complemented by several gorgeous solos from principal trombonist Bruce Chrisp. Mahler marked the movement as "Strong, determined," and Ferrandis followed that instruction scrupulously. Despite the relatively slow pace and diversity of musical ideas, he marched the orchestra relentlessly forward. His movements on the podium were elegant and relaxed, a distinct change from earlier years when he seemed tense and high-strung.

An evocative offstage snare began the final section, which ended with a tremendous climax at top speed. It was hard to imagine what might follow, but the stage entry of Abigail Fischer, a young mezzo soprano, along with a women and children's choir that trooped into the choir loft behind the stage, marked an abrupt shift in mood. The second movement, a minuet, began slowly and quietly in the strings, with no brass in evidence. In the hands of the Symphony, the dance felt airy and graceful, with an effortlessly flowing theme.

The second movement morphed seamlessly into the third, marked "Without haste." Superb playing throughout the orchestra highlighted the many playful elements of this pastoral idyll, including bird calls and shimmering reflections. Most memorable, however, was an off-stage trumpet weaving in and out of the sonic fabric.

When the "Very slow" fourth movement began, Fischer finally rose from her seat and revealed her glorious voice. Over pianissimo strings, she glided into the rich, low opening words of Nietzsche's "Midnight song." "O Mensch! Gib Acht!" (Oh people, give heed) she sang, with excellent enunciation and a resonant tone. She made each note count.

Fischer continued standing to join with the chorus in the sprightly fifth movement, marked "Happy in tempo and impudent in expression." Here the children stood out, singing without score in purple dresses (girls) and white shirts (boys). Their bell-like voices were clearly audible above the black-clad women, many of whose faces were buried in scores that blocked their sound.

The über-climactic finale began magisterially in the strings, with the cellos carrying the melody. Ferrandis and the players were sensitive to the dynamics: Soft passages were truly soft, and loud ones swelled mightily. Mahler could go on forever, but he finally brings matters to a close with not one, not two, but three tremendous climaxes and a sustained ending that closes and opens repeatedly until at last settling on a final note.

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice]