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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

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.