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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Sarah Ioannides

MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019

The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concert, the third in the set, is reviewed here.

Conductor Sarah Ioannides proved throughout the evening to have a firm control of the music and the wonderful SRS players, but offered no particular interpretative revelations during the 89 minutes of music. Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s C Major Overture opened the program and passed without much notice, despite lovely string ensemble playing, Meredith Brown’s horn solo and musical references to Von Weber’s overtures.

Clara Schumann’s A Minor Concerto, Op. 7, completed the first half with pianist Sara Davis Buechner as piano soloist. This is a difficult work to sound convincing in a modern concert hall, as the themes are conventional and the harmonic progressions seem aimless. The 1833 work begins with dramatic octaves crashing down (as in Robert Schumann’s A Minor Concerto from 1845) but much of the passagework, runs and arpeggios don’t lie easily for the soloist’s technique. Ms. Ioannides kept the sonic balances in check, and deferred to Ms. Buechner in the big thematic statements in the allegro maestoso and in the stirring romanze with the fetching duo of the pianist and cellist Adelle-Akiko Kearns. This use of a cello solo was unique in concertos of the time, even one that has a strong resemblance to the music of Hummel and Moscheles.

The finale had music and playing of more individuality, and handsome flute solos from Kathleen Lane Reynolds. Ms. Buechner’s playing sounded labored at times, and surprisingly she used score with a page turner, something now never seen with virtuoso pianists in conventional repertoire in an urban hall. Oddly it was Madame Schumann that was one of the first to play concerted works from memory, with this piece 186 years now old.

Readers interested in first rate Clara Schumann music might consult her Piano Trio and the heart-on-sleeve Romance from the Op. 22 Suite, the latter played in Weill Feb. 8 by violinist Joshua Bell and Pianist Sam Haywood.

Following intermission Robert Schumann’s dramatic and dark-hued E-Flat Major Overture, Op. 115, was heard. This is echt Schumann with continual reference to the Rhenish (3rd) Symphony, though the charm and sparkling hues of the Rhenish are absent. Ms. Ioannides drew a compelling performance with sterling trumpet duets from Kale Cumings and Scott Macomber. String sound was potent, with the usual SRS sitting of second violins stage left giving sectional differentiation.

The evening’s finest music came with Mendelssohn’s E-Flat Major Symphony (Op. 56, “Scottish”), a work the conductor fashioned with energy and elegant phrasing. After a solemn introduction things became impassioned (at allegro un poco) with a juxtaposition of orchestral light and mystery, but always a dense sound that this listener (in the balcony) found compelling. There was continual timpani artistry of Andrew Lewis. The composer omitted trombones but the Symphony’s seven basses and five horns gave strong thematic underpinning through the 41-minute work. Wind playing in the adagio had lovely small touches, with Ms. Lane, clarinetist Roy Zajac and oboist Laura Reynolds in lovely trios and duos.

Ms. Ioannides drove the concluding fiercely energetic allegro maestoso assai to a potent conclusion, beginning early in the movement to build the momentum, albeit with small songful pianissimo sections that slowed at times but never diminished the drama.

A standing ovation from most of the 850 in Weill seemingly compelled the conductor to recognize many of the Symphony’s musicians, and additional applause.

Virginia Eskin and Daniel Glover contributed to this review.