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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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, March 26, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Joseph Edelberg, violin; Elizabeth Prior, viola; Adelle-Akiko Kearns, cello

Composer Alan Hovhannes

SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017

Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth Prior) shared the stage for a dazzling performance of Mozart’s much-loved Sinfonia Concertante; and the cellist (Adelle-Akiko Kearns) was the soloist for Gabriel Fauré’s rarely heard Élegie.

Edelberg and Prior could not be more different as players. He stands ramrod straight; she sways back and forth. He plays the notes as written; she injects a little rubato when given the opportunity. His tone is pure but restrained; hers is warm and flexible. Opposites, to be sure; but opposites attract. This was a duet of two distinctive voices that complemented each other instead of fighting.

The opening Allegro movement of the Sinfonia Concertante was delightfully brisk and well played by all concerned, but there were occasional balance problems and some intonation lapses. The cadenza was invigorating, leading to healthy applause--a welcome departure from tradition.

Balance problems disappeared in the sublimely quiet slow movement. The orchestra stayed well back as Edelberg and Prior wove their intricately entwined lines to maximum effect. They tapped straight into Mozart’s tragic mode, eliciting profound emotion. In contrast, the closing Presto was light and buoyant, and the exchange of lines between the soloists was electrifying.

There’s usually a reason certain pieces are rarely heard, and such is the case with Fauré’s Élegie. The cello part is lovely, and it was lovingly played by Kearns, but the orchestration is often clunky, and the piece wanders. The balance problems were also more pronounced than in the Sinfonia Concertante, even though a stage hand installed a microphone in front of the cello stand. Kearns has great vibrato, and her tone is often luscious, but she was frequently overpowered by the orchestra, particularly in the softer passages.

Kearns got a better chance to shine after intermission, when she played the frequent cello solos in Sibelius’s fourth symphony. After three lushly orchestrated, crowd-pleasing symphonies, Sibelius took a break with the fourth, opting for restraint instead of grandeur. The result is an austere masterwork suffused with concealed energy that rarely breaks loose.

Conductor Bruno Ferrandis is well versed in Sibelius’s intricate musical architecture, and he pushed forward relentlessly, never letting the orchestra shy away from the symphony’s exacting demands. Orchestral crescendos came and went repeatedly without ever bursting forth into full-throated song. One got the sense of a volcano waiting to burst forth but constrained in its depth. The eruption finally occurred near the end of the Largo third movement, where the orchestra let loose with a remarkable unanimity of sound.

The performance of the final movement, with its resounding bells and sheer diversity, was a model of pinpoint dynamics and locomotive drive. Most remarkable were the last few dozen bars, where the orchestra seems headed to an ear-shattering conclusion but instead fades out elegantly, receding back into the depths.

Last but not least were the concert’s bookends: Alan Hovhaness’s Meditation for Orpheus, at the beginning, and Sibelius’ Finlandia, at the end. The Hovanhess offered an unusual array of orchestral colors, none more resplendent than when the basses pluck ad lib, creating a dense cluster of sound. The basic structure is of a musical hot potato being passed back and forth between sections over a drone-like background. The piece is oddly static, but the sound is often memorable.

On the other end was Sibelius’s more-than-familiar Finlandia, a rousing finale seemingly inserted to counter the sotto voce ending of his fourth symphony. The playing was authoritative and the applause thunderous, causing a nearby patron to remark, “Now that’s an ending.”

[Reprinted by permission of San Francisco Classical Voice.]