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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Marc Taddei

DVORAK SYMPHONY CYCLE CONTINUES IN VSO SEASON OPENING CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 3, 2019

There was a surprise at the Nov. 3 Vallejo Symphony’s 88th season opening Concert. Of the three works programed by conductor Marc Taddei, the Bartok E major Piano Concerto was the least craggy and sonically demanding. Bartok upstaged in musical impact? How so?

Before a nearly sold out Empress Theater audience Mr. Taddei omitted the usual season-opening Star Spangled Banner and after brief remarks regarding the year’s themes (“Great and Noble” and completing a cycle of Dvorák Symphonies) directed an energetic performance of Barber’s First Symphony, Op. 9. Lasting just 21 minutes, the 1936 work had splendid cello-clarinet duos, potent tympani playing from John Weeks, and the golden sound from the middle of the Orchestra from oboist Curtis Kidwell.

Mr. Taddei’s conducting style is all business with distinct cues, certainly needed in the music that swirled from neo-romantic lyricism to sonorous flowing climaxes that at times encompassed a hint of remorse. The conductor’s section control in the Passacaglia (near the end) was sure and generated a big sound in the Empress’ non-reverberant space. This Symphony is often compared with the Sibelius Seventh, but to me they are far apart, and the Sibelius (played last season by the VSO) ends quietly in a mysterious ascending phrase. Here the conductor shaped a big sound, and in the applause he singled out Mr. Kidwell.

The hall’s piano (not a Steinway) was set center stage with soloist Bobby Mitchell tackling the third Bartok Concerto, an autumnal for Bartok work that sharply diverges from the two dissonant and difficult predecessors. Using a score but only sporadically looking at it, Mr. Mitchell adopted clipped phrases and a dry tone that suited the instrument and the music composed in 1945 at the end of Bartok’s life. There was sharply etched thematic projection throughout the three-movement work. Mr. Taddei was in no hurry with tempos and shaped the long lines and chordal weighting in the Adagio Religioso with care. Laurie Siebold’s piccolo playing was adroit.

In the Allegro Vivace finale balancing instrumental sections is paramount, and Mr. Taddei met the challenge admirably, controlling the often explosive outbursts. Mr. Mitchell’s playing kept pace and even a delightful piano ascending Glissando was added to the mix. A sterling performance of a masterpiece.

Following intermission Dvorák’s D Minor Symphony (No. 7) was heard, one of the last of the Dvorák Symphonies Mr. Taddei has led over several seasons since joining the VSO in 2016. Brahms was an admirer and mentor to Dvorák, and the German master’s C Minor Symphony is mentioned as a model to the Czech composer’s No. 7. Again for me the comparison is weak, and much more Bruckner and different textures seem imbued in the work that premiered in 1885. Mr. Taddei drew a resolute and authoritative reading from his Orchestra, though powerful brass playing frequently overpowered the high strings and made quick ascending unison playing in the first violins blurred.

Throughout the four movements flutist Melanie Keller played the virtuoso parts with consummate artistry, often in duos with clarinetist Diane Maltester and in conjunction with the horn section. The Poco Adagio opened like a summer flower with soft string sound and bucolic woodwind playing. In the Scherzo Mr. Taddei focused on the Czech character of the music with exemplary playing in duos from the cello section and bassoonists Jarratt Rossini and Michelle Keem.

Mr. Taddei continued his consummate orchestral authority in the finale, especially in a dark hued chorale section. In 38 minutes that seemed short the Dvorak’s 7th was an organic whole, the VSO playing splendidly and affirming the conductor’s clear connection with a masterful Symphony and glorious composer.

Audience reaction was swift and loud with applause, the only possible response. Additional Dvorák Symphonies are scheduled for the sets Feb. 29/March 1 and April 18/19, both in the Empress.