Robert P. Commanday
Robert P. Commanday, founding editor of San Francisco Classical Voice, was the music critic of The San Francisco Chronicle from 1965 to 1993, and before that a conductor and lecturer at UC Berkeley.
Articles by this Author
While California and its constituent parts sit in a blue mood, Sonoma County on Friday night was celebrating the future and its hopes. At least, 350 of its movers and shakers were doing that, the donors who had raised much of the $96 million toward building the Green Music Center on the Rohnert Park campus of Sonoma State University. In their presence that night, the Santa Rosa Symphony gave the first real test to the auditorium that bids to be the prime symphony hall in Northern California.
The San Francisco Symphony’s Chamber Music Series, offered most Sunday afternoons, is a dependable bet. There, members of the Symphony emerge as individuals from orchestral submersion and can be heard doing what they most like to do, as best they can. The players, not the Symphony, program it, so there is little or no Russian music, no Mahler, but rather music of fresh interest — as was the case last Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall.
Aug. 12 and 14
The Seattle Opera’s Siegfried performed heroically on Wednesday, fighting the lingering effects of an illness more challenging than Fafner the dragon. Stig Andersen’s strategy worked. His holding back or “soldiering” through Siegfried Act 1’s sword-forging allowed him to end stronger in the finale scene, the awakening of Brünnhilde. Good thing he toughed it out.
The musically merry month of May came to a close on Sunday, traditionally as ever, with concerts conjoined to graduations, two that could not have been more different. The first, in the afternoon at Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium, found the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra (aka PACO) both featuring and graduating 18 senior members, headed now for 15 different universities, the Eastman School of Music, and two fine colleges.
A summer-style music festival in the middle of March? There it was, full-blown in Boca Raton, Florida, the resort community's third annual Festival of the Arts Boca, March 5-15. Of course mid-March is summer there, both weather-wise and in the lifestyle of the seasonal residents who swell the local population this time of year, the snowbirds from New York and the Northeast. Properly for a festival, it was thematically focused and might have been called the Itzhak Perlman Festival. His presence and performances were being celebrated for the 50th anniversary of his U.S. debut.
The Santa Rosa Symphony has more than earned its role as the future orchestra-in-residence at the Green Music Center, now edging toward completion at Sonoma State University (see the feature article). It has made remarkable progress during the past two decades, even under the handicap of an acoustically mediocre home. Its large and loyal audience has remained true and, further, has produced major patrons, support, and leadership for the Green Center.
In the world of fine cello soloists, Matt Haimovitz has to be a leading adventurer. There he was at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Sunday night in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, performing a solo recital of prodigiously challenging pieces that many of his colleagues may never have heard of. And performing them with flair and passion as if this were core repertory.