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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
Marin Symphony / Saturday, January 26, 2019
Alasdair Neale, conductor. Orion Weiss, piano.

Alasdair Neale (l) and Orion Weiss Celebrate Jan. 26 (Stuart Lirette Photo)

ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dances and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7. The more familiar Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 occupied the entire second half, with soloist Orion Weiss.

The Chairman Dances was composed in the 1980s while Adams worked on the opera Nixon in China, and is a thoroughly intriguing and delightful piece, playful and whimsical at turns, with minute tonal shifts and compelling rhythms that highlighted the orchestra’s excellent percussionists (Kevin Neuhoff and Ward Spangler) and string sections. With a watery, bubbly, Philip Glass-like minimalist beginning, with intervals of repetitive figurations punctuated by bells and clicks from triangle, tambourine, glockenspiel and the like, the playing was hypnotic. The music tumbles towards cacophony, and then pulls back, morphing into a ballroom dance melody, a foxtrot that is romantic, even ethereal. Toward the end, the instruments peel off one by one until only the piano and drums remain. The music slows as the clock ticks time away and then all is quiet. It was a champagne-worthy performance, much appreciated by the half-capacity audience in the Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.

The mood turned thoughtful with the opening of Sibelius’ Symphony, No. 7 in C major, Op. 105, written in 1924 and his last. It takes the form of a tone poem with a single 25-minute movement that changes mood and tempos as it travels great expressive distances. All of its major passages are in C major or C minor, and composer Vaughan-Williams is quoted as having said that no one but Sibelius could make C major sound fresh. There are ten sections that unfold without pause, with evolving texture and color, evoking a vast landscape both interior and exterior: the icy realm of Sibelius’ native Finland, with splendid playing from trombonists Craig McAmis and Kurt Patzner. Mr. Neale commented earlier that the Seventh Symphony “pulls you along in its wake.” The conductor interpreted the work as a slowly unfolding drama, a sound odyssey of mythic proportion.

After intermission Mr. Weiss joined the Symphony for the B-Flat Concerto (Op. 83 from 1881), and the performance of this powerful work was illuminating in a number of ways. This is passionate music, often anguished, sometimes furious and then tender. Meredith Brown’s lovely opening horn solo led to Mr. Weiss’ muscular playing, though he appeared tense as he strove to balance the underpowered piano’s voice against the orchestra’s sonority, which sometimes threatened to overwhelm him. This palpable sense of tension lasted through the allegro appassionato second movement. But in the lyrical third movement (andante) Mr. Weiss visibly relaxed as he played the solo passages, and in the solos and beautifully transparent duets with horn and principal cellist Madeleine Tucker, and splendid playing from flutist Katrina Walter and oboist Margot Golding, Mr. Weiss plumbed the movement’s poetic depth and cast a spell.

The final movement, allegretto grazioso—un poco più presto, had a heightened quality in its tender and spritely passages, and the concerto came to a triumphant conclusion. It’s a sinewy piece, and less volume from the orchestra would have benefited sonic balance and clarity, but otherwise it was a thrilling performance.

Some audience members applauded between movements, which Mr. Neale and Mr. Weiss took good-naturedly, though each time it seemed to disrupt the musical flow. A prolonged standing ovation rewarded the soloist and orchestra at the conclusion.