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2021-2022 Season

May 10, 2022: Santa Rosa Symphony Premieres a Michael Daugherty piece inspired by Sonoma landscapes

By: Steve Osborn, May 10, 2022 - San Francisco Classical Voice

“The most sacred duty of audiences,” said Santa Rosa Symphony Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong at their May 8 concert, “is to hear orchestral works for the first time.” The concert offered that duty in the form of a world premiere of Michael Daugherty’s Valley of the Moon, a programmatic work sketching specific landscapes in Sonoma County. In the words of Daugherty, who introduced the work, “Santa Rosa, this is your piece.”

Daugherty called the four movements of Valley of the Moon a road trip to four spots in Sonoma County: the coast, Bodega Bay, the redwoods, and Jack London State Park. All four spots are well on the beaten path, a classic itinerary for tourists.

Read full review at SFCV.

May 9, 2022: Striking gold in the musical Yukon

By: Paul Hertelendy, May 9, 2022 - Arts in SF

I had Michael Daugherty, 68, pegged for a 21st-century Ferde Grofé—a skilled tone painter in music for our times. Until, that is, we got to the finale of his new suite for and about Sonoma County, “Valley of the Moon.”

That finale segment, “Call of the Wild,” was immensely engrossing. Instead of the expected happy music, Daugherty here turned troubled, unsettled and enigmatic, much like the adventurous author of said novel, Jack London. In his life, the devil-may-care Californian London had had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster, with his turn-of-the-century books translated into dozens of languages. Aren’t our favorite heroes the most enigmatic ones?

Read full review at ARTSSF.

February 13, 2022: SR Symphony Chooses Harmony Over Football

By: Steve Osborn, February 13, 2022 - Classical Sonoma

Harmony of both kinds was in abundance in all four quarters of Demirjian’s innovative program, which included works by Black American composers William Grant Still and Florence Price, along with two mainstays of the American repertoire, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Binding these disparate works together was Mr. Demirjian’s infectious conducting, stellar playing by a pandemic-reduced core of Symphony musicians, and the transcendent artistry of piano soloist Michelle Cann. Read full review. 

January 9, 2022: The Show Must Go On

By: Steve Osborn, January 9, 2022 - Classical Sonoma

[Review of Sunday's performance, in which the orchestra performed a program that was altered out of neccessity, due to COVID concerns]
After the audience settled in, the orchestra launched into a spritely rendition of Mozart’s early Divertimento for String Orchestra, K.136, written when he was 16. Despite the composer’s tender age, the divertimento is relatively difficult to play well, so it was a pleasure to hear the string players sustain a remarkable unanimity throughout, with nary a wrong note or intonation problem to be heard. The close attention to dynamics and phrasing also paid off. How could a performance be this good with such scant rehearsal? The answer is that the Symphony musicians possess consummate skill and artistry.


January 9, 2022: Pandemic Trumping Premiere

By: Paul Hertelendy, January 9, 2022 - ARTSSF

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s brave 2022 resumption of concerts [the Symphony resumed live performances in October 2021.](with VAXXes and masks everywhere) continued with a tumultuous world premiere, a major artist, a Beethoven concerto and a choice memorial. Most distinctive is the premiere of a ground-shaking symphony by Gabriella Smith of Berkeley, “One,” which Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong called the hardest work he has ever conducted. The musicians might be in broad agreement. Without question “One” opened our ears, with some applauding vigorously, others ready to bolt from the Green Music Center.


December 5, 2021: Shostakovich Fifth Thunders at Weill Hall Concert

By: Terry McNeill, December 5, 2021 - Classical Sonoma

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. Read full review. 

November 8, 2021: Santa Rosa Symphony tells stories with gusto

By: Diane Peterson, November 8, 2021 - The Press Democrat

The Santa Rosa Symphony, under Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, transformed the Green Music Center into a storytelling salon Saturday night, opening the second concert set of the season by laying bare the sorrow and joy of the Slavic soul with elegance and gusto.

As part of that narrative, the instruments onstage tried to emulate the human voice — alternately sobbing and crying, sighing and soothing — while utilizing a wide palette of musical colors, from the tinkling harp to the squawking klezmer clarinet.

Conducting with expansive gestures and clear beats, Lecce-Chong brought a rhythmic vitality and smooth cohesion to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s popular orchestral suite, “Scheherazade,” during the second half of the program.

Read full review at The Press Democrat. 

October 3, 2021: Santa Rosa Symphony Returns in Triumph

By: Steve Osborn, October 3, 2021 - Classical Sonoma

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 Julian Rhee of Mozart’s “Turkish” violin concerto and a dazzling rendition of “Rust,” a 2016 piece by wunderkind Gabriella Smith, and ending with a puzzle-solving version of Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” Continue reading at Classical Sonoma. 

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