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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,
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 REVIEW
Marin Symphony / Sunday, November 7, 2021
Alasdair Neale, conductor
Orli Shaham, piano

Conductor Alasdair Neale

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-based composer Jessie Montgomery.

Brahms’ C Minor Symphony, Op. 68, was the afternoon’s final work and of course the centerpiece. Dating from 1876, the First Symphony is a sprawling piece covering in this performance 50 minutes in four movements, beginning with a long and dramatic Allegro that had mostly high tension throughout. Conducting without score, Mr. Neale fashioned a cohesive performance that spotlighted oboist Margot Golding and the horn section. Attacks and releases were just short of excellent, and the famous harmonic progression in the exposition repeat was startling.

Bass violin sonority was on display at the Andante’s beginning, continuing with Ms. Golding’s golden sound from the middle of the Orchestra, along with clarinet solos from Arthur Austin. It was odd that the movement-ending solo by concertmaster Jeremy Constant was somewhat covered by the ensemble, never rising to its enchanting height.

The Allegretto was properly happy with an occasional touch of menace, and the Adagio-Allegro was played forcefully, though nicely lessened with the long pizzicato section for strings and the telling one-bar full pause of silence, just before the loud horn call from Darby Hinshaw.

All praise goes to Mr. Neale for deft section control and never shying away from letting his orchestra roar when it was essential to do so. A standing ovation ensued.

Schumann’s iconic A Minor Concerto closed the first half with pianist Orli Shaham. Lately several performances of this 1845 work have adopted judicious tempos, but Mr. Neale took a more conventional pace in each of the three movements. The orchestra sound never covered the soloist, and Ms. Shaham played aggressively in places, alternating the composer’s sforzando chords with chaste legato scales. The descending octaves in the opening movement’s cadenza (by Schumann) were telling, as were the off-beat accents and an occasional inner pianistic voice.

The brief slow Intermezzo: Andantino Grazioso was a gentle musical conversation between Ms. Shaham and the Orchestra, highlighted by a poetical theme played by cellist Nancy Bien, captivatingly reinforced by the violin section an octave higher. Lovely.

The finale is well known for tricky rhythms that can cause the soloist and conductor to part company, but here all went well though the soloist’s clarity in scales and arpeggios was diminished, and the tempo turned to a fleeting vivace. The fetching dance phrases towards the end were played with their necessary joy, and the Concerto moved to a boisterous and decisive conclusion. Ms. Shaham responded to three curtain calls, received flowers, and gave elbow bumps to some of the smiling musicians.

Beginning the concert with the U. S. National Anthem, Mr. Neale subsequently explained to the audience aspects of Ms. Montgomery’s 2014 “Banner,” a pastiche of themes lasting nine minutes and featuring a string quartet inside the chamber orchestra. The composer has done the same on YouTube videos, more extended and with verbal confusion that made Mr. Neale’s comments on the selection of manifold anthems and cultural references seem almost quaint.

Alas, Banner proved to be one of those works that is programmed for various reasons, but ultimately quickly disappears from even innovative orchestral repertoire. There was much contrast from the Quartet, notable solos from bass violin Robert Ashley and flutist MyungJu Yeo, and a mid-piece shout and foot stomp from the Symphony. Several string downward glissandos and lots of tremolo playing were heard, but the emotional message of the work was lost on much of the audience, and applause was perfunctory.