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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
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor, Soloists and the VSO March 31 in the Empress Theater

AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019

Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater.

Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72, and he drew from the orchestra many small but effective climaxes in the 16 minute work, with sterling flute and piccolo playing by Melanie Keller, and Kale Cummings’ resonant trumpet solo that seemed to come from the audience. The Hall has clear acoustics but a short reverberation time, presumably helped when each of the 432 seats is filled.

Fauré’s Op. 48 Requiem was probably the piece on the program that was the afternoon’s attraction, and Mr. Taddei introduced it from the stage with comments about the current and coming VSO seasons. He is a witty speaker. Soloists were baritone Brad Walker and soprano Shawnette Sulker, the latter frequently heard with the American Bach Soloists and at the Mendocino Music Festival. American Canyon High School’s Chamber Choir occupied the rear of the small stage, with 35 singers.

It was an earnest performance of the seven sections, but ultimately an underpowered one. The Choir, prepared by Jamie Butler, could not effectively cut through the orchestral fabric for a clear sound, despite Mr. Taddei’s deft sonic control of the Orchestra. Mr. Walker’s resonant voice in the offertoire gave underpinning, along with the small organ, to the sound where often there were no high strings employed, and he held the section’s final note with vigor.

The composer is anecdotally known as “old arpeggio,” and the sanctus produced those chordal figurations, and harpist Anna Maria Mendieta could be clearly heard, along with a lovely long trill from the first violins ending a meandering theme. Ms. Sulker sang mostly as a duo with the organ (sans violins) in the pie jesu, leading to a long descending orchestral line with indistinct choral projection in the agnus dei.

Mr. Taddei never let the pace slack in the libera me and the finale in paradisum where at key points the cellos, bass and viola sound covered the Choir. A long fermata ended the wonderful Fauré work and Mr. Butler joined the soloists on stage for loud applause.

A “call or summons” from timpani leading to rising strings began the Sibelius 7th Symphony, closing the concert’s first half and for me the event’s highlight. Harmonies in this 1924 work, the composer’s last symphony, faintly echo Wagner’s Tristan and surprisingly Howard Shore’s music to the films “The Lord of the Rings.” With Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Sibelius is the master of big climaxes, but in the Op 105 work the climaxes are few and not so big, and were well shaped by the conductor. The pace taken in the one-movement work, lasting 21 minutes, was generally slow and unfolded naturally.

There was a burnished feeling to Mr. Taddei’s interpretation, with lots of tympani (John Weeks) and building horn solos from Margarite Waddell’s section and unison string playing. There were faint references to the composer’s famous “Valse Triste” toward the end, in an autumnal character leading to a strange C Major key, and Mr. Taddei uniquely quickly cut off the soft ascending phrase that concludes the work. Some conductors like to have the sound linger but Mr. Taddei had perfectly logical ideas in shaping the final pianissimo mildly dissonant and restrained ending. I found his reading convincing and always beautiful.

Of course the hero of the day was Mr. Taddei, whose name appeared on the Virginia Street theater marquee alongside big VSO lettering, and who mixed with the audience and musicians in the spacious lounge after the performance, responding to arcane musical questions and his previous life in New Zealand.

The 2019-2020 season, announced during the concert and featuring the final three symphonies of Dvorák and those of Barber (No. 1), Roy Harris and Ives (both No. 3), will continue the format of two-set performances. Success breeds success.