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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 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.