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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 / Saturday, January 24, 2009
David Lockington, Guest Conductor; Carol Wincenc, Flute Soloist

SRS Guest conductor David Lockington

WELL WITHIN THE BOX

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Before the Santa Rosa Symphony began its concert Saturday, the public-address announcer said there would be a short presentation on behalf of the Youth Orchestra. A tall, red-headed young woman then rose from the concertmaster’s chair and offered an exquisite reading of a brief, unidentified Romantic violin solo. After the applause, the Youth Orchestra manager strode to the stage, identified the soloist as the orchestra’s concertmistress, and informed the audience that the ensemble was only $10,000 short of the $289,000 needed to pay for a concert tour of Europe this summer.

It was heartening to learn that the Youth Orchestra is still thriving despite the economic downturn, and to hear the quality of one of its musicians. Less heartening was the apparent effect of the downturn on the Symphony itself. There were more than a few empty seats, including most of those in my balcony row.

Perhaps another reason for the less-than-full house was the absence of Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, who has developed an avid following in his few short years in Santa Rosa. His replacement, David Lockington, conductor of the Modesto Symphony, had large shoes to fill, along with some relatively unfamiliar repertoire — a double whammy.

Lockington is an unassuming, workmanlike conductor, as became immediately evident in the opening work, Carnaval for Orchestra, by the contemporary Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra. This work, premiered last year as part of the Magnum Opus project, could have been written many decades before. Taking an obvious cue from Robert Schumann, the five movements depict, in the composer’s own words, “five creatures of imagination,” namely gargoyles, sphinxes, unicorns, dragons, and the phoenix.

Using almost every instrument at its disposal, Sierra’s score evokes this bestiary mainly through orchestral color, with a plethora of muted trumpets, shimmering strings, eerie woodwinds, and all manner of percussion. Lockington kept all these elements under control with an unflagging beat and precise cues. He did not, however, bring much forward motion to the work.

That lack of motion is as much Sierra’s fault as Lockington’s. Like many composers of his ilk, Sierra seems content to paint a sonic portrait of a given image, but without investing that image with a temporal or narrative aspect. Through the density and variety of its sound, Carnaval engaged the senses, yet the mind wanted more.

Next up was another programmatic work, Bernstein’s Halil, for flute and orchestra, featuring the guest artist, Carol Wincenc. Modern flute concertos are a fairly rare breed, and this one almost doesn’t qualify as a solo concerto, given the prominent role played by an offstage alto flute and piccolo.

Bernstein wrote Halil to commemorate a young Israeli flutist killed during the 1973 Arab–Israeli war. As befits its subject, the piece is by turns elegiac and percussive, with a virtual army of snare drums replicating the drumbeat of war. Wincenc invested the score with a certain degree of emotion, yet her tone was a bit thin, and she was often upstaged by the offstage players. As if to atone for this shortcoming, she quickly launched into an encore, the Fantaisie by Fauré. This was short and sweet and allowed her to display some virtuosic chops.

After a steady diet of program music, it was a relief to hear the more abstract strains of Copland’s Third Symphony following intermission. This classically formal work contains some of Copland’s best music, from the open harmonies at the beginning to the well-known fanfare at the end. When performed with vigor and insight, it can be inspiring.

Unfortunately, Lockington’s natural restraint kept the symphony well within the box. Unlike Ferrandis, Lockington hardly moves when he conducts, and the players likewise kept to their notes without displaying much emotion. Too much of the playing was at the same level, a kind of tepid mezzoforte, without the full dynamic range that Copland’s music requires.

The strings were solid throughout, though the brass and woodwinds were occasionally ragged. Tempi were often on the slow side, particularly in the Andantino third movement, which often seemed on the verge of dissolving. Fortunately, the pace quickened in the last movement, and the brass and woodwinds offered several convincing iterations of the famous Fanfare for the Common Man. By the end, the glory of the writing overcame most of the performance’s shortcomings.

All in all, it wasn’t a great concert, but it offered some solid music-making and a glimpse of unfamiliar repertoire. More important, the donation table for the Youth Orchestra was mobbed at intermission, and the proffered hats were overflowing.

[This article first appeared in San Francisco Classical Voice (www.sfcv.org), and is used by permission.]