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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
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, April 25, 2021
Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor. Joseph Edelberg, violin

Violinist Joseph Edelberg

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 works capped by a larger-scale familiar piece that seemed to sweep away the sonic memory of what came before. Presumably many program selections are dictated by the number of available musicians, the needs of the video recording, and COVID restrictions. Filming in Weill Hall was April 10.

Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte for String Orchestra opened, a 2011 composition that Mr. Lecce-Chong took at a brisk clip over 12 minutes. Adelle-Kiko Kearns’ sorrowful cello line frequently echoed the pizzicato strings and the effective just-off-pitch demands of the score. Violinist Jay Zhong’s high register slides and string squeaks sounded unique, as did Ms. Kearns’ coda, where she played short phrases of swells and pauses, followed by softly strumming her instrument with guitar-like notes fading to an eerie silence.

Appearing for his ninth Symphony formal concert solo, concertmaster Joseph Edelberg played Ellen Taafe Zwilich’s Romance for Violin and Piano, also written in 2011. The initial music featured bassoonist Carla Wilson but quickly moved to Mr. Edelberg’s elegant interpretation, played from score, and equally quickly moving ahead to faster virtuoso playing that reminded one of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto.

There was piquant flute playing from Kathleen Reynolds, and Mr. Edelberg made the most of the music’s periods of repose, his vibrato widening to a subdued ending.

Prior to intermission, instrumental solos were on display in Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 4 for Chamber Orchestra (1996), one of nine the Mexican composer has written. Here again Ms. Wilson’s bassoon started things off, paired with wood blocks from the percussion section. Then came thematic handoffs to oboe (Laura Reynolds), flute, horn (Meredith Brown), soprano sax and regular clarinet (Mark Wardlaw and Roy Zajac), muted trumpet (Scott Macomber), trombone (Kurt Patzner) and finally the not quite tango playing of pianist Kymry Esainko. The conductor meticulously shepherded the infectious rhythms and solo entries over 11 minutes that seemed short and were a concert highlight.

Tchaikovsky’s splendid C Major Serenade (Op. 48) concluded the concert, the attacks and releases mostly accurate and the 32 musicians seemingly enjoying the production of waves of rich late 19th Century sound. Low-end string sonority is critical to this Serenade, as is patrician phrasing and precise articulation. Mr. Lecce-Chong generally avoids extremes of tempo and especially rubato. This avoidance was most apparent in the super-romantic Élégie movement, where additional phrase ritards would have been welcome. More schmaltz? Hardly, but similar to the great horn solo in the composer’s E Minor Symphony, the big violin theme in the Élégie asks for subtle expansion of the lush melodic line, and here the conductor chose moderation.

That said, the six cellos and four basses supported glorious string playing in the charming Waltz movement, with some instruments muted. Mr. Lecce-Chong was in no hurry to get anywhere in the final Andante-Allegro. He deftly controlled instrumental sections and the musical excitement mounted, finishing with a triumphal string octave jump and a resounding short coda and long fermata.

Video production at this virtual concert was first cabin with ample close-ups of the musicians and excellent sound.