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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
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Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma State University Department of Music / Sunday, September 26, 2021
Alexander Kahn, conductor. Matthew Bowker, saxophone; Isabella Grimes, flute

Saxophonist Matthew Bowker

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 first have of two abbreviated concertos, and happily a non-shortened reading of Mozart’s 36th Symphony, the C Major “Linz,” K. 425.
In his remarks to the audience Mr. Kahn explained that the Mozart composed the 1783 work in four days, but that nary a note of the four-movement seems rushed or slapdash. Mozart slapdash? Well perhaps at times, but not here as it’s inventive and sure footed from first to last.

The conductor’s tempos were quite relaxed over the 26-minute performance, the scrappy ensemble of 23 responding well to the score’s demands for precise attacks and releases and attention to string intonation. Horn playing gave appropriate contrast to the strings and the tympanist Charles Gomez contributed a steady beat. Articulation in the courtly Menuetto was exemplary.

Mr. Kahn led an exuberant Presto finale, reminiscent of the first movement’s motives and prescient to the great C Major Symphony (“Jupiter”) that would come in four years, with another six repeated movement-ending chords.

Mozart began the concert with the opening movement of his G Major Flute Concerto, K. 313, with Isabella Grimes playing the virtuoso solo. She was best in the high register sections (as of course is the flute) with clear runs and accurate octave drops. I didn’t recognize the cadenza, not as long or complicated as is a cadenza played by Jean Pierre Rampal, and perhaps it is the composer’s own. In any case, she played it well and received loud applause from a contingent of students in the hall, and several bouquets including one from her teacher Kathleen Lane Reynolds.

The first half concluded with the second movement (Larghetto – Animato molto) of Ibert’s Saxophone Concertino, with Matthew Bowker the soloist. Playing from score Mr. Bowker’s opening was haunting, a rich languorous sound that carried throughout Weill that quickly was augmented by Cooper Ysais’s bassoon line. The violins were too muted here, and when the upbeat Animato came distinct notes were blurred in faster passages. Mr. Bowker nailed the movement’s contrasts, with a faint saxophone reminder of a Wagner’s use of the English Horn in Tristan und Isolde’s third act. The lyricism was underscored by the Orchestra’s sonorous bass and cello lines.

Mr. Kahn’s spirited ensembles three more performances this season - a concert featuring compositions by American Indian composers (Nov. 20); a family concert Feb. 26; and April 30 in Weill with “An Evening in Buenos Aires," music of Piazzolla, Golijov and Ginastera. Information is at http://music.sonoma.edu/ensembles/symphony-orchestra.