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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
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.