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Recital
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

Jonathan Dimmock (far left) and Alexander Kahn (far right) April 29 in Weill (JCM Photo)

ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018

Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed.

Avec l’orgue (with organ) was the concert’s title, and since Weill Hall has no resident organ, an explanation is necessary. There was once a plan to have the Schroeder Hall organ’s sound connected to Weill’s speakers hanging from the ceiling, and the Schroeder organist watching the Weill conductor through closed circuit TV. That idea was abandoned, and now an electronic instrument is brought to the stage, in this event a first-cabin three manual unit. San Francisco organist Jonathan Dimmock played it splendidly throughout the afternoon.

SSU faculty artist Alexander Kahn conducted in a style sharply different from the past 20 or so conductors in Weill, choosing conservative and elegant cues and gestures rather and the extravagant control mechanics and dynamics Santa Rosa Symphony conductors such as Bruno Ferrandis and Francesco Lecce-Chong employ. One exception to the one/twenty ratio comes to mind, when Valery Gergiev’s conducted the Mariinsky Orchestra in Weill in a sensational Strauss Ein Heldenleben early this year in his unique “fluffy” arm/hand style. The Mariinsky was one of a handful of superlative orchestra concerts since the hall opened in 2013.

The St. Saëns C Minor unfolded with an initial lovely mystery, deftly drawn by Mr. Kahn, and the organ had ample sound and seemingly greater reverberation time than Weill usually produces. As the 54-person orchestra was composed of community and student players, the usual benchmarks of crisp ensemble, exact string pitch, unified brass attacks and theme projection in the violins needed critical adjustment. That said, there were some convincing performances throughout, especially duos with the violas and cellos, powerful brass outbursts, horn and cello responses and pungent percussion sounds and cymbal crashes. Flutist Alyssa Cunningham and clarinetist Ryan Perry played lovely solos, and Pedro Estrada led the three-person percussion section.

The great bottom C Major organ note opened the final section with majesty, and Mr. Kahn lost no time in bringing the allegro moderato to a rollicking conclusion. The piano part in the finale (two and four hands) was briefly audible, and Mr. Dimmock’s chordal playing, heard only in two parts of the 1886 Symphony, sporadically overpowered the orchestra in a rich sonic mass. But it’s that kind of piece, a champagne festival of glorious sound, and may have been a North Coast premiere.

The St. Saëns was preceded in the first half by Dukas’ Fanfare from the 1911 ballet La Péri, and Poulenc’s G Minor Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani. With 11 players sited high in the balcony behind the stage (four horns, tuba, three trumpets and three trombones) the snappy Dukas work passed without much notice, and in a way so did the Poulenc. Most of the Concerto, finished in 1938, differs from the more familiar Poulenc of urbane French charm, light sarcasm and slightly melancholic tunes. The single-movement music had a movie score character for the first section, and then the Orchestra seemed to catch its stride in the following part of lighter textures and faster tempos. High string intonation in the tempo allegro, molto agitato was a challenge, but the five cellos and two double basses gave a sonorous foundation for the entire 24 minute performance.

The audience of 200 gave the Poulenc performance a short and subdued applause.