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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, May 7, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor. Vadim Gluzman, violin

Composer Dmitry Shostakovich

SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin concerto, and culminated in a magnificent performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, also known as “The Year 1905.”

Where to begin? Why not with an actual Slav, violin soloist Vadim Gluzman? Born in Soviet Ukraine in 1973, Gluzman has since moved to Israel and is basking in the confident middle portion of a distinguished career. An Isaac Stern protégé with impeccable credentials, Gluzman is one of the world’s best violinists and one of its most sensitive musicians.

Mr. Gluzman’s technique is staggering; his intonation knife-edge precise; his tone gorgeous; his fluidity incomparable; his vibrato expressive; his musicality complete--but what impresses the most is his full engagement with the performance, the orchestra and the audience.

Mr. Gluzman is not someone to stand still and fiddle. Instead, he paces constantly, at times settling in front of the orchestra for virtuosic passages, but just as often drifting in front of the conductor to synchronize his bowing and articulation with the strings. Indeed, at the end of the first movement of Prokofiev’s dazzling concerto, Gluzman led the cellos and violas in their concluding bars.

From start to finish, the artist was in command. His sound rose easily above the orchestra; even his pizzicato could be heard over the basses and bassoons. His phrasing was exquisite, and he often marked the ends of phrases with dramatic flourishes of his bow. His intensity built throughout the concerto, culminating in the ecstatic rondo of the finale, complete with castanets. The ovation was immediate, but sadly no encore was offered.

Before the Prokofiev, the orchestra breezed through Khachaturian’s rollicking ballet, “Masquerade.” Ferrandis established a sprightly tempo, and the orchestra responded in kind. The only performance glitch in the five-movement suite occurred in the second movement, where concertmaster Joseph Edelberg’s extended violin solos were often drowned out by the horns. Perhaps Mr. Edelberg could have stood up to make his sound more prominent.

After intermission, the Symphony’s Executive Director, Alan Silow, emerged on the stage to bid a fond farewell to Ferrandis at the end of his final full season with the orchestra, which he has led since 2006. Once again the audience rose to its feet to give Ferrandis a well-deserved ovation. He has definitely increased the orchestra’s musical caliber over the last decade, but his greatest contribution has been the inclusion of more contemporary repertoire.

Shostakovich isn’t exactly contemporary (he’s been dead for 40 years), but much of his music feels as if it could have been written yesterday. Such is the case with his 11th symphony, which concluded the program in stirring fashion. The symphony may be called “The Year 1905,” but it could just as easily be titled “The Year 2017.”

According to th composer the symphony depicts the “Bloody Sunday” massacre on Jan. 9, 1905, in front of the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, along with its aftermath. The first movement, “The Palace Square,” depicts impoverished workers gathering in front of the palace to plead for help. The unprovoked massacre of the workers is characterized in the second movement, “The Ninth of January,” and the subsequent grieving in the third, “In Memoriam.” The final movement, “Tocsin” (alarm), underscores the rising spirit of revolution.

Armed with this detailed program, listeners familiar with Russian history can indeed conjure up images of the Winter Palace, the massacre, the grieving and the pending revolution while listening to the symphony. But that’s a limiting proposition. As evidenced by Sunday’s performance, the symphony is universal in its depiction of human suffering, political horrors and the ultimate possibility of redemption. Shostakovich himself said that it could as easily depict the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Tension is the watchword of “The Palace Square.”Mr. Ferrandis and the orchestra began quietly with a minor, bass-heavy theme and held steady during a long crescendo, hewing to precise dynamics and tempi throughout. Evocative trumpet and horn solos added to the sense of growing unease, which suddenly morphed into full-fledged conflict, as indicated by the furious cello runs at the attaca opening of “The Ninth of January.”

Within short order, the conductor led a tremendous build-up to a dense layer of sound--yet every part was audible. The momentum was inescapable, particularly when the snare drum announced the start of a massive fugue during which Mr. Ferrandis jumped up and down on the podium. It was controlled chaos.

“In Memoriam” began memorably with a plangent solo from the viola section and continued with a variety of elegiac passages from the rest of the orchestra. The sound was incredibly full, thanks in part to the wonderful acoustics in Weill Hall. The playing was masterful and beautiful across the orchestra.

The famed contemporary music group “Alarm Will Sound” might want to change its name if they ever perform “Tocsin,” where alarms have no futurity; they go off very much in the present from the beginning to the end of this astonishing movement. The orchestra played the heavily syncopated score with searing intensity. The strings in particular bowed with propulsive force, leading the relentless march to … a haunting, brooding English horn solo by Jesse Barrett. Yes, Shostakovich somehow manages to pull the plug before the contrabassoon leads into a no-holds-barred finale. This produced yet another standing ovation--the third of the day.