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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

Conductor Alasdair Neale

MIGHTY SHOSTAKOVICH 10TH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 28, 2018

Just two works were on the opening program of the Marin Symphony’s 67th season Oct. 28, Tchaikovsky’s iconic D Major Violin Concerto, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.

Before a full house in the Marin Center Auditorium conductor Alasdair Neale set a judicious opening tempo in the brief orchestra introduction of the Tchaikovsky, setting the stage for the entry of few cadenza-like bars from soloist Dylana Jenson’s broadly lyrical main theme. There are many ways to interpret this 1878 work, usually a high-powered virtuosic showpiece with muscular virtuosity, but this afternoon Ms. Jenson chose a low-voltage approach. With the hall’s direct and non-reverberant sound, her playing had clarity and often elegance, but was frequently covered by the orchestra. A similar understated performance in the same hall and orchestra was in the 2016 Jennifer Koh Barber Concerto, but a big violin sound can be had here, as Vadim Gluzman proved many seasons ago.

Ms. Jenson played the cadenza (the composer’s own; are there others?) well with exemplary bow control in the top register and with small tailing off at phrase endings, limited swelling on individual notes and immaculate scales. Mr. Neale held the orchestra back at places, deferring to the soloist.

All through the performance Ms. Jenson was never in a hurry, preferring a chaste projection of themes in the allegro and andante movements, and melding flawlessly with solos from flutist Katrina Walker and clarinetist Arthur Austin. The violinist’s trills were not only fast but deftly shaped, and she commanded a spiccato technique that was admirable.

In the concluding allegro the workmanlike solo interpretation continued without many intriguing ideas or playing that didn’t emerge from the orchestral fabric with any commanding sonic projection. Oboist Margot Golding played beautiful responses to Ms. Walker, and Mr. Neale provided solid support to the rhythmic of the dance and at times the bass-heavy second theme.

The audience greeting the low-temperature reading with an extended standing ovation.

Following intermission Mr. Neale drew from his orchestra an extraordinarily lucid and powerful reading of the Shostakovich Symphony, a four-movement work from 1953. Conducting without score (pretty rare these days, and somewhat dangerous) Mr. Neale let this majestic and sporadically menacing piece unfold naturally, building sonically thrilling climaxes throughout, as the composer (with perhaps symphonists Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler and Sibelius) could uniquely construct. The darkly brooding moderato, lasting almost 30 minutes, was brilliantly played. Mr. Neale avoided milking the long and often loud phrases, clearly wanting the momentum to have a natural pace and sensibility. I suspect Mr. Neale knows well the composer’s rarely performed Fourth Symphony (1936), with its deep bass and cello underpinning, and at this concert he seated the low strings stage left for additional sonority.

Beautiful clarinet and horn playing characterized the first movement, and a piccolo duet (Ms. Walker and Sasha Launer) was captivating. The composer writes masterfully for this instrument.

The short scherzo had terrifying impact with relentless speed and raucous intensity, the trombones especially potent. Several violinists could not quite keep up with the breakneck velocity, and the ensemble was at times blurred. Horn playing in the third movement allegretto was almost impeccable, with principal Darby Hinshaw sounding richly above his orchestra colleagues, and lead to a laconic and characteristically melancholic Shostakovich thematic response from Ms. Walker sorrowful clarinet phrases.

Sterling wind playing continued into the finale (andante – allegro) where the conductor continued to fashion a glorious rubric of rich sound, keeping the many threads of this complicated music well in hand. Standout soloists here were Mr. Austin, Ms. Walker (projecting a theme which was a call to musical battle), the cello section and bassoonist Carla Wilson. The Marin Symphony’s four-horn section played the tricky four-note ascending and descending phrases in unison.

This performance was among the finest I have ever heard from the Marin Symphony, in a work that demanded astral virtuoso accomplishment from each section. However, the hero of the afternoon was Mr. Neale, whose conception and authority in Shostakovich’s music were marvelous to experience.

Bravos erupted at the end of the 59-minute odyssey, and the ovation was long and resounding.