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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,
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
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Sunday, December 5, 2021
Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor. Roy Zajac, clarinet; Laura Reynolds, oboe; Dan Levitan, harp; Kathleen Reynolds, flute; Karla Ekholm, bassoon.

Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong

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 Theme of Thomas Tallis featured gorgeous string sound throughout, and as always the piece seems to evoke peaceful holidays and a sonic aura of the Middle Ages, the composer’s own “Lark Ascending,” and even chant. Attacks and releases are critical here, and conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong drew from his Orchestra long crescendos and diminuendos, with seven contrabasses richly supporting golden solos by violist Elizabeth Prior and concertmaster Joseph Edelberg. The 16-minute work ended with a haunting long decrescendo.

Closing the first half was Hindemith, his 1949 Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Harp. In three movements, the performance had a bright musicality that allowed each of the soloists to be clearly heard from my balcony seat. The sound mix was intriguing with strutting brass, duos from flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds and harpist Dan Levitan (big sound, not amplified) and in the Rondo finale references to Mendelssohn’s familiar Wedding March theme. Symphony principals Laura Reynolds (oboe) and Roy Zajac (clarinet) were joined by acting principal bassoonist Karla Ekholm.

This was arguably the first large scale Hindemith composition the Symphony has played in some time, and the composer’s splendid “Mathis de Maler” Symphony might be an attractive program item for subsequent seasons.

The Shostakovich D Minor Symphony (the Fifth, Op. 47) began with the conductor’s remarks to the audience regarding the spiritual nature of the music, reminiscent of conductor Jeffrey Kahane’s long ago quasi-political comments to the audience about Shostakovich, Beethoven and Mahler’s courage against political oppression. Virtuoso horn and wind playing characterized the 17-minute Moderato, the strident march passages and massed strings easily sweeping away memories of the concert’s earlier music. This Symphony unfolded thunderously, with compositional references to the earlier Fourth Symphony, and Mr. Lecce-Chong (conducting from score as he did all afternoon) deftly marshalled the instrumental sections into a formidable unit.

Contrary to the overall power of this work, the conductor was able to bring out inner voices among the cymbal crashes, spotlighting the spacious themes in the violins. The brief seven-minute Scherzo featured horn duets of Meredith Wilson and Alex Camphouse, and snappy unison string Pizzicato. Solo mastery continued in the majestic Largo with prominent clarinet and flute passages, celesta and harp lines in juxtaposition with the beautiful melodies coming from the strings and oboe. A faint whiff from the third act prelude of “Tristan und Isolde” was in my mind here, and the sound of the English horn.

The brass was absent in the Largo but certainly made stentorian appearance in the Allegro finale, where the conductor oddly didn’t take an immediate Attaca and opted for a few extra seconds of silence. This movement is a journey of escalating complex orchestra sound, punctuated by mighty timpani from Andrew Lewis, and clangorous percussion (even a snare drum) from Allen Biggs’ section.

There were moments of repose from the harp, violins, and a charming duo of bass violins and cello. However, these were mere moments in a thrilling tapestry of sound, everything triumphant, and Mr. Lecce-Chong guided the continually slowing tempo at the end with its famous dragging timpani notes to tumultuous effect.

The audience seemed stunned for a few seconds by the performance’s impact, then stood for a roaring ovation.