Geneva Anderson digs into art

Finally! Elīna Garanča makes her Bay Area debut at Weill Hall, Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut at Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 8, 2013.  Photo: courtesy Elīna Garanč

Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut at Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 8, 2013. Photo: courtesy Elīna Garanč

She’s graced the stages of the world’s top opera houses, notably stunning at the Met three seasons ago with her break-out role as Carmen.  She was set to have her West Coast debut with San Francisco Opera in “Werther,” fall season 2010, but unexpectedly cancelled.  The closest we’ve come to seeing her up close was catching her riveting Sesto in the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD simulcast of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (December 1, 2012) at the Rialto Cinemas—wowing us with her opening “Parto, parto” and her Act II aria “Deh per questo istante.”  Finally!  Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut in recital on at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 9—her only West Coast appearance this year.  What a coup for GMC!  But it’s been quite a year for mezzos—Stephanie Blythe and Joyce Di Donato gave unforgettable performances earlier in the season.

Garanča’s rich mezzo, musicianship, and compelling stage portrayals have established her as one of the world’s newest opera stars.  In 2005, she locked in a coveted exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.  Now, at 36, she’s in her prime.  Along with her last best-selling solo album, Romantique (2012)(works by Berlioz, Donizetti, Gounod, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Vaccai), she has been releasing a series of glam-shots that accentuate her striking beauty and sensuality.  And like, Joyce DiDonato, who wowed us with her amazing red gown, Garanča also loves to dress up, so get ready for some amazing dresses on Tuesday!

On April 26, Deutsche Grammophon will release its recording of Metropolitan Opera’s 2009 production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola in which she sings Angelina, the opera’s central role.  Critic Steve Smith raved in a New York Times review (5.7.2009) that she was “technically flawless: her voice lustrous and even throughout her range and at any dynamic; her delivery, silken and seemingly effortless.”

Reviews of this particular performance run hot and cool. She was in recital this past Saturday at Carnegie Hall, with the same program she’s doing for GMC.  Critics praised her voice, precision and preparation but pointed to her lack of connection with the audience.  Forging that intimate connection is the factor that immortalizes a technically great singer, which Garanča already is.  The warm, intimate, and relaxed atmosphere of Weill Hall should go a long way towards taking care of that.  It’s been an elixir for the divas who’ve appeared there so far and we’ve experienced them at their finest.

Garanča’s program centers on love—a mother’s love for her newborn child, the early pangs of romance,  the solidarity of a great marriage, and the warm contentment of a bond that has matured over many years.  She’s selected three of the masters of German lieder: Robert Schumann, Alban Berg, and Richard Strauss.  The cornerstone for the recital is Schumann’s  Frauenliebe und – leben, which she said in an interview with Carnegie Hall is her current favorite lied cycle.


Robert Schumann

“Der Nussbaum”
“Zwei Lieder der Braut””

Frauenliebe und – leben”

Alban Berg
“Sieben frühe Lieder”

Richard Strauss
“Leises Lied”
“All mein Gedanken”
“Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden”
“Meinem Kinde”
“Heimliche Aufforderung”

Elīna Garanča introducing the romantic repertoire of her latest CD, “Romantique”

Elīna Garanča sings Mozart’s “Parto, ma tu ben mio” from “La celmenza di Tito”

Elina Garanca sings Gypsy-themed songs, introducing “Habanera,” her 2010 solo album.  

Details:  Elīna Garanča performs April 9, 2013 at 8 p.m. at Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.  Ticket purchases can be made online at, or, over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040.  Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm.  The Box Office re-opens one hour before the performance.

Parking: As you enter the Sonoma State University campus from the Rohnert Park Expressway, there are multiple parking lots immediately to your right. Parking Lots L, M, N and O are available for parking for GMC performances. Parking is $10.  Have cash ready.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center, Opera | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Green Music Center this Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Image: courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Image: courtesy Jazz at Lincoln Center

Winner of nine Grammy Awards for both jazz and classical records, the virtuoso trumpet player and composer Wynton Marsalis is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum, from New Orleans and bebop to modern jazz.  In 2011, Marsalis stepped in as artistic director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and his impact has been nothing short of monumental in both the creative and management realms.  Drawing from an extensive repertoire that includes original compositions by Mr. Marsalis, Ted Nash, and other members of the orchestra, as well as the masterworks of Ellington, Mingus, Coltrane, and other great jazz composers, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis concerts are internationally critically acclaimed.  Marsalis and the orchestra, composed of many of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, will play at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall this Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 8 p.m.   The concert has been sold-out since last spring, when tickets first went on sale for GMS’s inaugural season.

Prelude Restaurant Pre-concert dinner: Taste of New Orleans: An exclusive pre-concert event featuring true New Orleans-style cuisine, bluesy-jazz music, and the best wine and beer Sonoma County has to offer will be held from 6pm – 8pm (concert begins at 8pm) this Thursday at Prelude Restaurant at the Green Music Center.  Price $375 / person, including concert seating.   This is one way to get tickets. Contact: Caroline Ammann at 707-664-3517 or email by Thursday evening

Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform Wigwam at the XIV Festival Internacional de Jazz San Javier in 2011—

In 1997, David Frost interviewed Wynton Marsalis at his home and they discussed jazz, music and culture in general.  Marsalis, then 36, had already won a Pulitzer and several Grammy Awards and comes across as thoughftul and wise beyond his years.   What a wodnerful ambassador for jazz— 

In 1983, Wynton marsalis won Granny Awards in both the Jazz and Classical recordings,  and did this agian in 1984.  Here is his performance of selections from both genres in the 1983 national broadcast of the awards ceremony with John Denver hosting—

Details: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform Thursday, March 13, 2013 at 8 pm at Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.  The concert is SOLD OUT.   Check for last minute returns at the Box Office in person, starting 1 hour before the performance or phone the Box Office at 7 p.m. at (866) 955-6040 to inquire about returns.  The Box Office closes at 4:30 p.m. but re-opens one hour before the performance.

Parking: As you enter the Sonoma State University campus from the Rohnert Park Expressway, there are multiple parking lots immediately to your right. Parking Lots L, M, N and O are available for parking for GMC performances.  Parking is included in your ticket purchase – no stub or receipt is needed to park.

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Jazz Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony perform the first concert of an annual 4-concert series at the Green Music Center this Thursday, December 6, 2012— 2 Sonoma County musicians will play and SFS Assistant Concertmaster Mark Volkert’s “Pandora” will have its world premiere

San Francisco Symphony Assistant Concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert will have the world premiere of “Pandora,” his work for strings on Thursday, December 6, 2012, when SFS plays the first concert in an annual 4 concert series at the Green Music Center.  Photo: courtesy SFS

San Francisco Symphony Assistant Concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert will have the world premiere of “Pandora,” his work for strings on Thursday, December 6, 2012, when SFS plays the first concert in an annual 4 concert series at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. Photo: courtesy SFS

Musically speaking, the new Green Music Center is jamming.  Since its grand opening on September 29, 2012, its stunning Weill Hall has hosted over 20 performances ranging from Lang Lang’s inspired piano sonatas to Buika’s sensual gypsy-flamenco to Joyce DiDonato’s dazzling baroque arias to the classical and cutting edge contemporary repertoire of the Santa Rosa Symphony.  Thursday, the concert hall will be road-tested by the City’s treasured San Francisco Symphony (SFS), conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), with a program that includes the world premiere of “Pandora,” a 20-minute-long work for strings composed by SFS Assistant Concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert.  Grammy winning pianist Yefim Bronfman will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor.”  Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks is also on the program.

 ARThound sought out two of three SFS musicians based in Sonoma County, violist Wayne Roden and percussionist Tom Hemphill (Bass player Chris Gilbert of Petaluma will not perform in this concert).  It’s highly unusual to have a SFS musician premiere a work he wrote and I couldn’t wait to speak Mark Volkert about “Pandora”  and to get perspective from these two local musicians about the SFS series at Weill Hall and of course, what it feels like not to have to commute.  Volkert joined SFS in 1972 and Roden and Hemphill both joined in 1974—that’s over a century of SFS performing experience between them.

This is not the symphony’s or MTT’s first time at Weill Hall.  SFS had an Open Rehearsal at Green Music Center on May 6, 2010.  SFS Associate Conductor Donato Cabrera was conducting and the purpose was to test the hall’s acoustics and fund-raising—this was before the Weills came on the scene in late December 2010.  (The program:  Bernstein “Overture to Candide,” Beethoven First Movement “Symphony No. 5,” and Tchaikovsky Third Movements from “Symphony No. 4” and Symphony No. 6.)  There had only been one previous test of the hall and that was by the Santa Rosa Symphony in February, 2010.

MTT visited the concert hall on a separate occasion in the summer of 2011 and tested the fabulous Steinway piano out on stage.  Jeff Langley, GMC’s artistic director recalls that MTT “was kind of in his own little world that day.  He was conspicuously quiet but he played Mozart for about 20 to 25 minutes and he just got into it.  He was preparing some concertos and sonatas for an upcoming concert and he was practicing these.  I remember walking up and putting the lid all the way up so he could have full sound.  At the end, he said something like ‘very nice’ and that was it.”

Cotati resident Wayne Roden has played viola in the San Francisco Symphony since 1974.  He will perform with SFS on Thursday, December 6, 2012  at Weill Hall.

Cotati resident Wayne Roden has played viola in the San Francisco Symphony since 1974. He will perform with SFS on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at Weill Hall.

Violist Wayne Roden

Violist Wayne Roden lives in rural Cotati with his wife, author Barbara Quick, where they grow Pinot noir and Pinot gris and make their own wine and raise a lot of their own food.  He’s lived in Sonoma County for 24 years and loves it.  I touched base with him on Sunday, following the symphony’s Saturday rehearsal, the first go-through of the program they will perform on Thursday.  He remembered playing at Weill Hall before it was Weill Hall.  “We played a very short concert there a couple of years ago—this was before the bathrooms were built and they still had folding chairs and they were fund raising—but I was quite impressed.  It’s certainly a very beautiful hall, one of the most beautiful we’ve been in, and it sounded very warm and alive.  It’s hard to give a really good assessment of a hall until you’ve played in it a number of times because there’s always a first impression, a second impression and then, lingering impressions.  By the end of this year, we will really know that hall.”

I was excited to hear Roden’s impression of Volkert’s new piece for strings.  “Now days, it is unusual to have an accomplished violinist who is also adept at composing,” said Roden.  “It’s quite an accomplishment to have written this large scale piece and to have someone as knowledgeable as MTT decide to conduct it.  Mark has written some challenging parts too.  The concertmaster (Alexander Barantschik, first violin, ) has a very challenging cadenza but because he’s first rate, he just nailed it.  Also, he also wrote a very interesting and extremely difficult solo for Scott (Pingel), the principal bass player, and he played it great.  You almost never hear a bass player having to play anything in orchestral repertoire with this level of complexity.”

Roden also got back to me, several days later, after having practiced “Pandora.”  “With any music, but especially with more contemporary music, it takes a while for it to sink in and for you to start to comprehend what you’re hearing.  My appreciation of the piece is growing.  I particularly like the orchestration of the string section and in the big moments, there’s a very lush and appealing sound.  There are several parts for the section violas that are challenging but one in particular that is very exposed.  Initially, I was aggravated, as I always am, at having to learn something hard and new that, at first, I didn’t find at all appealing.  As I’ve worked on it and learned it, I actually like the passage—it makes musical sense and it’s very original.  I told Mark that I’m liking his piece more and more and he liked that because, you know, the opposite could have also been true.”

Of course, not having to commute into the City and, instead, having his colleagues come to Sonoma County delights Roden.  “It’s a little bit of schadenfreude, especially when you consider that for my entire career—38 years—we used to have to play in Cupertino as many as 8 times a year which was bad enough when I lived in the City, but from Sonoma County, it was awful.  Thankfully, they stopped that series and now we are at GMC, just about 10 minutes away from me.  What a relief.”

San Francisco Symphony Percussionist Tom Hemphill plays every kind of percussion instrument called for and has clinked (and broken) many a wine glass on stage.  edited photo: original Kirsten Loken

San Francisco Symphony Percussionist Tom Hemphill plays every kind of percussion instrument called for and has clinked (and broken) many a wine glass on stage. edited photo: original Kirsten Loken

Percussionist Tom Hemphill

Percussionist Tom Hemphill lives in unincorporated Sonoma County, a couple of miles west of the Washoe House, in a fabulous Victorian home that he and his wife Regan have been restoring continuously since they bought it in 1991.  They moved up to Sonoma County from San Francisco to raise their two boys who are now grown.  He commuted for the first 12 years he lived in Sonoma County, but “never really liked the idea of commuting” so he rented, and now owns, a small apartment near Davies Symphony Hall and stays a few times a week with his wife.  “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Hemphill, “long walks in the country and in the City.”

“It’s pretty weird to be an old timer at 61,” says Hemphill of his 38 years SFS.  He began playing drums in third grade in his school’s “easy steps to the band” summer program and never put down his sticks.  Of course, he plays more than drums—basically every kind of percussion instrument called for in any piece the symphony performs—and has played many odd-ball items, including chains, flexitone wire and wine glasses.  Thursday’s concert, however, is standard repertoire for percussion—cymbals, bass drum, timpani drum, and triangle—and Hemphill will crank a ratchet for the Strauss piece.

“The string players always have challenging parts,” said Hemphill, “we’re adding color and rhythm.  Once in a while, we get a piece with very active parts where we have to utilize all our technique and that makes it challenging.   I also enjoy it when the music is exciting.  Something like Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 11” is lots of fun and some of his works really get your blood moving.”

Unlike most of the other instruments in the symphony, percussion instruments are frequently very exposed, explained Hemphill.  “Often you have to come in on a single note by yourself, so you can never really sneak in on a note; you have to be right on top of it.  There’s also the issue of hitting.   All the other musicians have their touch in their instruments so they can focus on the conductor or the music.  With the chimes, for example, you don’t really touch the instrument.  You have the hammer and the rawhide and the chimes are hanging from a rack and you’re looking at the conductor and the chimes are nowhere in the same plane of sight.”

Hemphill recalls first time the orchestra played at the unfinished Green Music Center, “We played an early evening concert and the natural light coming in through those top windows was just gorgeous.  It’s so unusual to have natural light in a concert hall and the wood was glowing and the sound too was great.  It’s not such a large hall that it has the challenges of a large and more cavernous hall like Davies which seats about 2,700.  GMC has that classical shoebox design which favors acoustics.   That first concert we did was like Potpourri.  After playing a series like this, we’ll have a very good feel for the hall and its capabilities.”

SFS Assistant Concertmaster and violinist, Mark Volkert on the world premiere of his “Pandora

In the summer of 20120, SFS Assistant Concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert wrote “Pandora” his new 20 minute-long piece for strings, specifically with the great SFS string section in mind.   “I write because it’s enjoyable,” said Volkert from his Oakland home.  In 1972, when he was junior at Stanford University, he auditioned and won the second violin seat at SFS and moved up to Assistant Concertmaster in 1980.  Throughout his career, he was written and arranged music and always has the musicians in mind.  “I tried to write something that was challenging, because these players can certainly handle that, but also idiomatic, well-suited to the string instruments.  I gave the bass a prominent solo part as well all of the first chair string players.  The cadenzas are all written out but I tried to give them freedom to shape it the way they want to.   All musicians want and need to add a personal touch to what they do.”

While “Pandora” is an abstract piece of music to be enjoyed without any background information, the title was inspired by Hesiod’s 8th century B.C. version of the myth of Pandora, the earliest written account of the well-known myth.  Volkert had a fairly detailed sketch of the piece completed before he settled on a title, which is generally one of the last things he chooses.  “The whole story seemed to fit with my preliminary sketches for this piece,” said Volkert “and I actually went back and actually revised the piece so that it would have a more narrative element.   I chose Hesiod’s version because I liked his spin on the story.”

Hesiod’s Pandora is a beautiful woman imbued with a treacherous nature who is charged by Zeus to release a jar (pithos) of evils on the world as a punishment.  In the process, somehow, hope gets trapped under the rim of the jar and Pandora puts the lid on the jar, trapping it inside. “Philosophers for centuries have been pondering what it means to have hope stuck in the jar of evils and that fascinated me,” said Volkert. “What is Hesiod trying to tell us about hope—which is translated as the expectation for either good or bad?  It might be that he is telling us that hope is not a good thing because it forces us to dwell on what might happen in the future, essentially to live in the future.  He might be saying that it is not our place to question the gods, that hope can prevent you from living in the moment which is the important thing to do in this life.” (Click here to read SFS program notes on “Pandora” by Scott Fogelsong who interviewed Volkert on the the storyline of the myth.)

“Pandora” will be Volkert’s second piece to be premiered with SFS which commissioned his 1995 Solus, a 15 minute-long piece for strings.  He has done numerous arrangements, too, for the symphony such as Ravel’s violin-cello sonata for string orchestra.  Within context of SFS, it is not unheard of to have a violinist who composes. Violinist, composer, teacher, and conductor David Sheinfeld (1906-2001) had several of his orchestral compositions premiered with SFS during his tenure as a SFS violinist (1945-1971).  And in the 17th  (Corelli), 18th  (Vivaldi) and 19th centuries (Joachim), it was common for violinists who were soloists to compose.  Volkert stresses that he composes because he enjoys it and that basically anyone can learn to do it once they learn the language of music.  On Thursday, he will sitting in the audience listening to his piece.  “I’m not sure where I’ll sit but this is going to be quite an experience.”

Details:  The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performs Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 8 pm at Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Tickets: $15-$145.  Tickets are available at or by phone at 415-864-6000  or in person at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco or at the Green Music Center Box Office located on the first floor of the SSU Student Union in the interior of the Sonoma State University Campus.

Other Upcoming SFS Performances at Weill Hall:  The Orchestra’s four-concert series for GMC also includes performances January 31, March 7, and May 23, 2013

Thursday, January 31 at 8 pmCharles Dutoit conductor, James Ehnes violin, San Francisco Symphony

 Ravel Rapsodie espagnole

Lalo Symphonie espagnole, Opus 21

Elgar Enigma Variations, Opus 36

Thursday, March 7 at 8 pmMichael Tilson Thomas conductor, Yuja Wang piano, San Francisco Symphony

Berio Eindrücke

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Opus 58
Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 68

Thursday, May 23 at 8 pm David Robertson conductor, Marc-André Hamelin piano, San Francisco Symphony

Elliott Carter Variations for Orchestra

Ravel Piano Concerto in D major for the Left Hand

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Ravel La Valse 

December 5, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dish: Opening Weekend Parties Await the Well-Heeled Patrons of the Green Music Center, starting with lots of cork popping at Prelude, the GMC’s new restaurant

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I normally don’t get too social but, seriously, who isn’t curious about the goodies and special parties awaiting select patrons of the beautiful Green Music Center this weekend?  Here’s the low-down on Saturday night’s pre Lang Lang soiree for 600 and the exclusive post-performance feast.  The events are co-chaired by Marne Olson and Joan Weill.  Marne Olson is very active in the Santa Rosa Symphony and is the wife of Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana.  Joan Weill is the patron saint of the Joan and Sanford I Weill Hall, who, along with her husband Sandy, donated the $12 million necessary to nearly complete the GMC’s state of the art concert hall.

BEFORE:  While many of us will be scrambling for parking outside the center, 600 generous patrons have been invited to an opening night pre-concert champagne reception in Prelude, the GMC’s elegant restaurant and bar, which will be open to the general public on October 6, 2012.  In a community partnership, the talented young people of Santa Rosa Junior College, which has an exceptional culinary arts and catering program, will provide hors d’oeuvres for the festive pre-concert champagne reception.

AFTER:  Award-winning Napa celeb chef Michael Chiarello (chef at Yountville’s Bottega, vintner, TV host, sustainable farmer, James Beard Award Finalist in 2012 and he overhauled Delta Airlines the first-class menu) has designed a magnificent menu for the post concert fundraising dinner—price of entry $10,000 to $30,000 per table.   The menu includes local delectables such as heirloom tomatoes, rack of lamb, and a special Chocolate Budino for dessert.  Chef Chiarello is supported by the renowned wine-country based Elaine Bell Catering.  And even though SSU’s nick-name from way back when is “Granola U,” and there are boundless fabulous gourmet versions of granola to be found, it’s just NOT on the menu.   Event and floral designer Thierry Chantrel of La Follia, San Francisco, known for his FABULOUS wedding bouquets, has planned an enchanting décor for the dinner tent, complete with more than 60 individually designed “still life tablescapes” unique to each table, beautiful linens from La Tavola, and local and seasonal flowers.

A rare, 2007 “Year of the Dragon” Chinese Cuvée (75 percent Pinot Noir, 25 percent Chardonnay) has been contributed by the Sterling Family of Iron Horse Vineyards for a champagne toast as guests arrive.  Additional wines contributed for the dinner include a 2011 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca Valley, Chile, provided by Agustin and Valeria Huneeus; a 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, provided by Anne Moses and James Hall; and a 2009 Bedrock Wine Co., Lachryma Montis Late-Harvest Semillon from Monte Rosso Vineyard, provided by Morgan Twain-Peterson.

The Grand Opening Weekend itself sponsored by Bank of America.  Additional sponsors include the Koret Foundation, Alexsis de Raadt St. James, the Sterling Family of Iron Horse Vineyards, On Campus Presents, Rudolph and Sletten, Bedrock Wine Co., Patz & Hall, Kosta Brown, Sonoma State Enterprises, and Santa Rosa Junior College.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Green Music Center opens next Saturday with Lang Lang’s inaugural concert in the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Concert Hall—he’ll be playing the Center’s Steinway … AND you can still buy tickets for outdoor seating

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7 days and counting!  We’re all looking forward to Chinese celeb pianist Lang Lang’s concert Saturday evening at the Joan and Sanford I Weill Hall, officially opening the Green Music Center.  Lang Lang will play a Steinway piano owned by the center that he knows well.  The gregarious 29 year old prodigy, deemed “the hottest artist on the classical musical planet” by the New York Times, visited the hall at the invitation of Joan and Sanford Weill in January, prior to their $12 million donation in March.  Lang Lang was asked to test the hall’s acoustics by playing the center’s 9 foot concert series Steinway grand piano.  He recognized it.

The Green Music Center acquired the gorgeous ebony piano in 2009 when it was gifted by an anonymous Sonoma County donor.  Every Steinway grand piano is a numbered work of art with more than 12,000 individual parts and over 125 patented features. The GMC’s piano, #552, had previously been in Seattle and it came to the Green Music Center slightly used but in mint condition.  When Lang Lang checked its number, he confirmed that he’d played it before.  After playing the piano for nearly an hour, he gave both it and the hall’s acoustics a stellar thumbs up according to Kamen Nikolov, associate director of production operations at the Green Music Center.  Nikolov spoke to me during a tour of the 1,400 seat Weill Hall on July 10, 2012.   The Weill’s, who are great fans and friends of Lang Lang, wanted him to play the inaugural concert and wouldn’t take no for an answer.   In the video clips below, Nikolov talks about the Steinway and Lang Lang and he plays a Bach piece demonstrating the Steinway’s magnificient sound and Weill Hall’s stellar acoustics.

If you’ve never heard Lang Lang play before, you’re in for an utterly dazzling display of ebony and ivory, and bursts of color, outrageous color.  If you’re familiar with his talent, it’s rumored that he’s getting even better: the master classes he been taking of late have matured him and led him into a more authentic emotionality.   There’s only one Lang Lang and only one magical celebration of this opening of this lovely hall…so don’t miss out.

Stay tuned to ARThound for several articles this coming week exploring the Green Music Center and Weill Hall, including an interview with Nolan Gasser, the acclaimed Petaluma composer whose Sonoma Overture was especially commissioned by Santa Rosa Symphony for its inaugural concert in Weill Hall on Sunday.

Thrilling!  Weill Hall Acoustics: Kamen Nikolov plays Bach Prelude in C Major

Lang Lang’s Program for Saturday’s Inaugural concert:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

Piano Sonata No. 5 in G major, KV 283

Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major, KV 282

Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, KV 310


Frédéric Chopin:

Chopin Ballade No. 1 Op 23 in G minor

Chopin Ballade No. 2 Op 38 in F Major

Chopin Ballade No. 3 Op 47 in A flat

Chopin Ballade No. 4 Op 52 in F minor

Read ARThound’s review of Lang Lang’s performance at Davies Symphony Hall, January 18, 2011 here.

Lang Lang teaches Mozart: click here for Ben Chan’s April 11, 2012 Piano Sage blog post showing video of Lang Lang teaching a piano master class in Mozart, explaining the nuances of Mozart.

Lang Lang takes a master class on Beethoven:  

Outdoor Seating for Lang Lang’s concert Saturday is Still Available:  As of Friday at 4:30 p.m., the tickets sales office reported that there was still ample outdoor lawn seating at $25 per person (767 seats had sold with a total capacity of 2,700) and outdoor table seating at $55 per person (668 had sold with a total capacity of 1648)

To purchase tickets online, click here.

If you encounter difficulty with online purchases, tickets can purchased by phoning the Box Office at (866) 955-6040 open Monday–Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or In Person at the Green Music Center Box Office (same hours as above).

Don’t Miss Out on the rest of the Opening Weekend!

Sunrise Choral Concert, Sunday, September 30, 2012, 7a.m.:  Watch the sunrise through the windows of Weill Hall while marveling in the vocal splendor of local choral ensembles and soloists. This free choral concert, which will run about 40 minutes, features original compositions by Jeff Langley and Amanda McTigue, performed by members of the community including the Sonoma State University Chorus and Chamber Singers, Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus, Maria Carrillo High School Chamber Singers, Cantiamo Sonoma and The Sunrise Chamber Players.  Vocal soloists include Carol Menke, Jenni Samuelson, Christopher Fritzshe, Kevin Baum, and Thomas Hart.   There will be a reception in the lobby afterward.  Completely Sold Out!

Santa Rosa Symphony’s Orchestral Opening Concert, Sunday 2 p.m.:  The Santa Rosa Symphony will proudly step over the threshold of its new performance home as Resident Orchestra at the Green Music Center on Sunday, September 30, celebrating 85 years of music making and recognizing three individuals who helped usher in this new era: Conductor Emeritus Corrick Brown, Conductor Laureate Jeffrey Kahane and current Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.

Maestro Brown will conduct Beethoven’s overture, Consecration of the House as an appropriate beginning to the 2 p.m. concert and Maestro Ferrandis takes the podium for the remainder of the program—Ravel’s Bolero, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, performed by Kahane, and Copland’s great Canticle of Freedom, featuring the 100-voice Symphony Honor Choir.

World Premiere Composition by Nolan Gasser:  The Symphony has commissioned an orchestral work by Petaluma resident and critically-acclaimed contemporary composer Nolan Gasser. His Sonoma Overture evokes the natural beauty of Sonoma County, and recognizes the energy and dynamism of its cities, industries and people.  The piece will introduce the second half of the concert.

Seating Indoors is Sold Out;
Lawn and Table Seating is Still Available:
Outdoor Table Seating on the Weill Terraces (many have a good view inside the hall) is $25 per person.  Outdoor lawn seating is complementary but you should reserve your tickets in advance.  Tickets for outdoor seating will be available at the door, subject to availability.   The outdoor lawn seats do NOT have a stage view but large outdoor viewing screens will be installed and a sound system should deliver very high quality sound.  If you go for the outdoor option, remember to dress for the chill and bring blankets or something to sit on.  Low chairs are allowed.

For tickets, purchase (or reserve) online at  OR by phone (707) 546-8742 OR in person at the Symphony Patron Services Office, 50 Santa Rosa Avenue (first floor, off elevator lobby), from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Selling out the HOUSE!!!!   Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas: Sunday, September 30, 2012, 7:30 p.m.:   The capstone of the Grand Opening weekend celebration is the band The New York Times hails as “the most popular and accessible bluegrass act in the country.”  Alison Krauss’ remarkable career goes back more than a quarter century. In 2000, she gained legions of new fans with her performance on the soundtrack of the Coen brother’s hit film, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou. She has won 27 Grammys, the most of any female artist in history, and has collaborated with Robert Plant, James Taylor, Phish, Dolly Parton, Yo-Yo Ma, and Bonnie Raitt.

Seating Indoors is Sold Out;
Lawn Seating is Still Available:
As of Friday, 4:30 p.m., there were 32 tickets, $25 each, left for Outdoor lawn seating.  To purchase tickets online, click here.  If you encounter difficulty with online purchases, tickets can purchased by phoning the Box Office at (866) 955-6040 open Monday–Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or In Person at the Green Music Center Box Office (same hours as above).

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment