It was a spectacular night after a gloomy day filled with political ups and downs. What a great way to escape into the compelling world of music. Entering the newly refurbished Fox Theatre in Redwood City, my husband and I were impressed by how beautiful it is, how lush and how it hearkened back to early days of movie theatres. It was built in 1929.
There was a kind of “triple feature” that awaited us, beginning with the preconcert lecture. The talk this evening was actually an interview, with David Latulippe, host of KALW’s “Open Air” interviewing the distinguished composer, Gwyneth Walker, whose works we were soon privileged to hear. The interview was charming and captivating. Walker lives on a dairy farm in Vermont, is a full-time composer and has a huge repertoire of wide ranging works. She also began her musical career at age two and was composing for her neighborhood by age five. She even made an Italian professor forget she was female because her melodies were so good. She described her work as American and reminiscent of Aaron Copland…
In its 68th season, the Peninsula Symphony continues to thrive under the baton of its long-time conductor, Mitchell Sardou Klein. After a shocking setback in 2013, the orchestra has recovered and continues to draw an enthusiastic audience in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. A part of its successful recipe appears to be a combination of its programming and featured soloists invited to perform with the orchestra.
The season features works by living, women composers. Even though the glass ceiling is beginning to crack, Klein maintains that there is a wealth of works by many women composers that remain unheard. As with many contemporary works, they are often forgotten after a few performances. While Klein is proud of the fact that one of his former assistant conductors, Sara Jobin was recently appointed as the music director of the Toledo Symphony and Opera, he says audiences are still being denied exposure to women artists.
The season’s opening concert began with a bang: Carolyn Bremer’s beloved Early Light (1995) has been a staple in the concert band repertoire at high schools across the nation, and has enjoyed staying-power for two decades. However, it was originally composed for an orchestra the Peninsula Symphony players brought out its festive fanfare, and danced in its complex, Bernstein-like polyrhythms. But the real explosion was yet to come.
American pianist Conrad Tao has been making waves for some years, even though he just turned 22 this year. He is a recipient of multiple awards, including the prestigious Gilmore Young Artist award, and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. While his contemporaries are just beginning to gain exposure, Tao already has had a decade-long international career as a pianist, a violinist, and a composer.
The performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor gave a clear indication that Tao is seeking his own path, away from orthodoxy. He made an explosive entry, but gave a dark, melancholic reading of the wistful theme. With clear, articulate lines, Robert Schumann’s passionate ardor towards Clara was expressed with determination, through deliberate tempos. Rather than letting the music be overly sentimental, rendering it a torrent of rage, Tao illustrated its volatile, bipolar personality with an unusual level of clarity and dryness. It almost felt as if the music gave a third-person account of the composer, rather than the music being by Schumann himself. Tao’s fresh perspective laid strong emphasis on the music’s architecture…
Read the entire review at: https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/peninsula-symphony/peninsula-symphony-and-conrad-tao-take-schumann-deep
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony isn’t actually the biggest or longest symphony ever written. It is, however, the greatest monument of the symphonic repertoire, the one that Beethoven spent over 20 years preparing himself to write. This is the work with which the Peninsula Symphony chose to end its current concert season. I heard the performance at Flint Center in Cupertino last Saturday.
Music director Mitchell Sardou Klein led a big, grand, rather old-fashioned performance with as much of an epic quality as his musicians could bring to it. The suspenseful first movement and abrupt scherzo were dramatic and thundering. The Adagio was so slow and expansive that it felt like the largest part of the symphony. And the choral finale, the “Ode to Joy,” was broad and stately, with long pauses to gather itself every time the music changes gears, which it does frequently.
The musicians of this nonprofessional orchestra put everything they had into this symphony. The performance was on a high level, far better than in Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto also on the program. The timpani thundered, and the horns and brass blared out prominently in a way that reminded me of the San Francisco Symphony in Seiji Ozawa’s day, except that the Peninsula players made fewer flubs. Highest honors go to the cellos and basses for the long recitative that introduces the “Ode to Joy.” This was both on point and full of character.
Taylor Eigsti and the Peninsula Symphony, together for the fifth year, created a night to remember on the weekend before the Super Bowl. In addition to being a Bay Area favorite as an amazing musician, he is also an avid San Francisco 49ers fan. What could be better than music inspired by the Bay Area and its football team?
This was the second year that I attended a January Peninsula Symphony Performance and it did not disappoint. Music Director and Conductor, Mitchell Sardou Klein explains that, “ Each time Taylor works with us to plan and perform an entire evening of symphonic/pianistic jazz it proves to be a fascinating process….This time we bring back the astounding guitarist (and long-time friend and colleague of Taylor’s) Julian Lage in several numbers that they wrote both together and separately.”
The blend of orchestral music and jazz was a delight. Surprises included, a jazz quartet, the introduction of a very young and talented pianist, a couple of football helmets well used to keep Taylor and conductor Klein from “a musical concussion”, and variations on themes in which the jazz group held the audience spellbound.
Taylor Eigsti visits bring with them many surprises, lots of energy and a very enthusiastic audience. This was my second chance to be part of that audience. Every aspect of this evening was compelling and satisfying. From the lecture before the performance to the last strains of Eigsti’s “Broken Lullaby”, the performance was remarkable…
The Peninsula Symphony began 2014 with its first performance at the newly opened San Mateo Performing Arts Center located next to San Mateo High School. It seats 1600 and has the largest stage between San Francisco and San Jose. All seats offer unobstructed views of the stage. Plenty of free parking is available for patrons. Handicapped seating is available.
A look at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center Website reveals a wide range of performances – something for everyone. I was fortunate to be visiting Palo Alto for an extended length of time (from cold Chicago) so that I was one of the lucky audience members at what looked to me like a “love fest”. The audience loved the performance and the performers loved the audience and everyone loved the “new” auditorium. I could not fully appreciate what a joy this new auditorium is, but my seatmate told me that the old seats were very uncomfortable. I agreed with her assessment that the new seats are very comfortable. The auditorium is lovely and the acoustics are very good.
I attended the preconcert discussion and was impressed with what I learned about the Peninsula Symphony. Since 1949 the mission of the Peninsula Symphony has been to enrich the lives of people in our community with inspiring, innovative, high-quality musical presentations at affordable prices, and to promote music education through engaging programs for children and adults.
The current conductor Mitchell Sardou Klein has held his position for 29 years during which the Peninsula Symphony grew from a grassroots ensemble to a polished 90-plus member orchestra of well-trained community musicians. The Peninsula Youth Orchestra was established in the spring of 1997, with Mitchell Sardou Klein serving as the Music Director.
The orchestra produced rich, full tones that combined into easy listening in the George Gershwin numbers, Overture to Girl Crazy, Rhapsody in Blue, Overture to Strike Up the Band and also in I left My Heart in San Francisco (a shout out to the 49ers-sob!) This night honored Jazz, the only great art form that is uniquely American. It moved from Gershwin, who essentially started it all at a concert called “An Experiment in Modern Music” in 1924 when Rhapsody in Blue was performed. The first time this was played it wasn’t written down so no one really know how it sounded. This night in San Mateo, a night of Grand Openings, paid tribute to Dave Brubeck with three of his compositions, The Duke, Koto Song and Blue Rondo a la Turk offered with embellishments by Bay Area musicians…
LOS ALTOS, Calif., (November 22, 2015) – Peninsula Symphony is pleased to announce Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of the late Hollywood star Gene Kelly, as their special guest for its annual gala. Entitled “On the Town with Peninsula Symphony,” this season’s fundraising event will be held at the Palo Alto Event Center on February 20, 2016 starting at 5:30PM. Kelly was only 26 years old when she met her husband while working on a documentary for the Smithsonian back in 1985. With his energetic, athletic dancing style and likable persona, Gene Kelly was one of the most beloved of actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring in some of the most iconic film musicals in history. He is also regarded as one of the most innovative film choreographers of all time. Patricia Ward Kelly later became his personal biographer and eventually his wife in 1990.
In recent years, Patricia Ward Kelly has been touring with the one-woman show she created, Gene Kelly: The Legacy around the country. It includes clips, photos and nostalgic tales about the star of such classics as American in Paris (1951), On the Town (1949) and Singin in the Rain (1952). Her appearance at the Peninsula Symphony’s event will include some of these featured classics as she shares Gene’s passion for classical music and how his love of symphony inspired his many endeavors as an iconic and inspirational actor/dancer/singer. Live musical numbers will be performed by the symphony’s musicians during this special event.
Read the entire press release HERE.
LOS ALTOS, Calif., (September 30, 2014) – The Peninsula Symphony is pleased to announce that Sheri Frumkin, a veteran nonprofit development professional, has been engaged as Managing Director. “We are extremely happy to have an experienced, well-known, local non-profit executive join the Symphony family. We look forward to continuing to grow and bring the joy of classical music to the community under her leadership,” said Alan Bien, Board Chair of the Peninsula Symphony.
Frumkin has an extensive background fund raising in the performing arts and has been active with major performing arts organizations in the South Bay for 15 years, having held the positions of director of development for Ballet San Jose and the San Jose Repertory Theatre, and as the corporate gifts manager for the San Jose Symphony as well as the board member of American Ice Theatre. Her expertise includes building relationships with individuals, corporate partners, institutional granting
entities and community partners, and developing fundraising strategies. Frumkin holds a bachelor’s degree in Musicology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Frumkin is an avid proponent of arts education and will be responsible for ensuring the continued success of the Symphony’s Bridges to Music program that provides performances and music education in local public schools.
Read the entire press release HERE.
Mitchell Sardou Klein is the man who has made the Peninsula Symphony what it is.
This community orchestra, which plays mostly in San Mateo but also in venues stretching from San Bruno to Cupertino, is celebrating this season its 30th year under Maestro Klein’s music directorship.
The symphony had been founded in 1949, and was under the leadership of founding conductor Aaron Sten for 35 years — “a length of service that seemed like an eternity to me,” said Maestro Klein of his thoughts when he was hired on the retirement of that venerable figure in 1984.
I first heard the symphony in the 1970s. It was then an amateurish band. I did not hear it again until after Maestro Klein had been in charge for over two decades. The improvement was enormous. This is a largely volunteer community orchestra that, at its best, verges on professional standards. I’ve heard the players dive enthusiastically in to a variety of works, with special skill at some 20th-century pops, such as Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and William Walton’s “Crown Imperial.”
Klein, who had already guest conducted the orchestra prior to his hiring, almost immediately on his arrival began to expand the symphony’s musical services.
Oakland violinist Jeremy Cohen didn’t travel to Buenos Aires to study tango. Instead, Argentina came to him.
After rigorous classical training with Anne Crowden in Berkeley and Itzhak Perlman in New York City, Cohen satisfied his far-flung musical interests as a Los Angeles studio ace. When he returned to the Bay Area in 1995, it was to take over the second violin chair in “Forever Tango,” the hit show that sparked the region’s ongoing romance with the erotically charged Argentine art form.
“That was the beginning of my tango boot camp,” Cohen says. “Almost everyone in the orchestra was Argentine, and they insisted I play stylistically appropriate. When the guy playing first violin had to return to Argentina, they started grooming me to be the lead player, and I held down that chair until the original show closed 18 months later.”
While he’s devoted a good deal of his creative energy in recent years to his stellar swing band ViolinJazz with pianist Larry Dunlap, Cohen has kept a foot firmly planted in tango territory. This weekend, his Grammy Award-nominated ensemble Quartet San Francisco collaborates with the Peninsula Symphony, performing his original arrangements of tangos by Arturo Marquez, Astor Piazzolla and Agustin Bardi on Friday at Redwood City’s Fox Theater and Saturday at De Anza College’s Flint Center.
Read the entire article at: http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/01/11/peninsula-symphony-and-quartet-san-francisco-combine-to-do-the-tango/
Listen to the podcast at: https://audioboom.com/posts/5934377-may-18-2017-the-state-of-the-arts
The Peninsula Symphony explores space in their final concerts of the season, with two works inspired by planets, and in between, they feature a young bass player as the soloist for a Bottesini concerto. Music Director Mitchell Sardou Klein says they’ll also have recent NASA images to accompany the celestial works, and guest astronomer Andrew Fraknoi to provide context for the performance.
There’s more information about the concerts (Saturday’s is sold out) at the Peninsula Symphony website.
The concert will open with the work The Transit of Venus by area composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, part of the orchestra’s season theme called “Fortissima” of including works by living women composers on every program. Gustav Holst’s masterpiece will end the concert and the season. Klein describes it this way: “The Planets, which is blockbuster orchestral tour-de-force, pulling out all the stops, using almost every instrument that ever gets on an orchestral stage, woven together to depict the planets less in an astronomical exhibition, and more in an astrological context. So we really hear the personalities of the planets a little bit more than the geography of the planets.” The theme of the concert seemed inevitable, given the nearby Ames Research Center in Mountain View. “There’s so much recent NASA photography,” Klein explains, “And our orchestra has a number of members who in their other lives are scientists working on those kinds of projects. One of our bassoonists, our longtime principal bassoon was a NASA Project Manager for many years. He managed several of the big interplanetary missions.” The soloist for the Bottesini was the winner of last year’s Irving M. Klein International String Competition. “In the 31 years of the Competition…we’ve never had a bass player get a top prize. And this year, we had a young bass player studying at Curtiss named William Langley-Millitich, who just knocked everybody out… We’re really very excited to see him, and I think our audience will just love it.“
Listen to the podcast at: http://kdfcinteractive.org/audio/SOTA170119.mp3
Peninsula Symphony will be joined by the eclectic Saint Michael Trio (sometimes known as ‘Saint Mike’) for their concerts this Friday and Saturday. Music Director Mitchell Sardou Klein says they’ll play music by Claude Bolling, Astor Piazzolla, Cameron Wilson, W.C. Handy, and more – plus, the orchestra will continue its Fortissima series of programming of works by living women composers with Gwyneth Walker’s Concert Suite.
There’s more information about the concert at the Peninsula Symphony website, and also the Saint Michael Trio site.
“These are three really quite amazing young men who have created a very distinctive personality as performers,” says Mitchell Sardou Klein. “They perform the standard piano trio literature and they’re very good at it. They also love to do jazz, and they’re terrific at that. These are all three people who have major careers someplace else, very prominent ones, but have made a tremendously successful presence as a piano trio.” During the day, violinist Daniel Cher is a doctor, who designs medical devices; cellist Michel Flexer is a software engineer; and pianist Russell Hancock is CEO of a company that analyzes the economy of the Silicon Valley. Klein says the trio doesn’t stand on convention. “The way they present music, they like to talk about it in a very concise original way. They are not your standard ‘walk out, take a bow’ kind of performers, but they’re much more engaging, much more personable than a lot of classical artists are on stage.”
Listen to the podcast at: http://kdfcinteractive.org/audio/SOTA161101.mp3
The Peninsula Symphony opens its season this weekend with a triple-threat soloist, and a new initiative that shines a spotlight on living women composers. Music Director and conductor Mitchell Sardou Klein says they’ll be joined for Schumann’s Piano Concerto by Conrad Tao, on a program that also includes works by Carolyn Bremer and Edward Elgar.
There’s more about the concerts at the Peninsula Symphony website.
Conrad Tao is hard to label; Mitchell Sardou Klein describes him as an “extraordinary young musician who happens to mostly be a pianist… He’s a composer of really significant accomplishment. He has commissions for major works, he’s a violinist, and then he is this just deliriously fabulous pianist. I heard him with San Francisco Symphony playing the Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations about a year and a half ago, and several other Peninsula Symphony folks were in attendance, and we all said ‘we gotta get this guy,’ and fortunately now, we did!” Opening the concerts is Early Light by Carolyn Bremer, which is the first in their ‘fortissima’ series of works by living women composers. “We’ll have a piece by a living female composer on every program this year, and probably for a long time to come,” Klein explains. “It’s a much ignored, unfortunately, segment of the repertoire, and that actually represents an opportunity for us, because there’s a huge amount of very interesting and diverse works there to choose from.” And they’ll close with Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the set of works that depict in music his circle of closest friends. Their images and brief biographical sketches will be displayed as the Peninsula Symphony performs the work.
Listen to the podcast at: http://kdfcinteractive.org/audio/SOTA160314.mp3
Peninsula SymphonyMusic Director Mitchell Sardou Klein and the Peninsula Symphony welcome an unusual ‘soloist’ for their next concerts this weekend – the four French horns of the ensemble called Quadre. They’ll play the Konzertstucke, or Concert Piece for four horns and orchestra by Robert Schumann on a program called ‘Fantasy Tales.’
There’s more information about the Friday (San Mateo) and Saturday (Cupertino) night concerts at the Peninsula Symphony website.
Quadre usually performs in a chamber music setting – frequently playing works that they’ve commissioned or arranged for their rather unorthodox group, but Robert Schumann’s work is one of the few that allows them to shine with a full orchestra. “Schumann wrote this wonderful thrilling piece for four horns where there’s gorgeous lyrical passages, but also just big flashy technique-laden virtuosic horn playing, and you really have to have four outstanding soloists to do that,” Klein explains. The concert will open with Rossini’s overture to his take on Cinderella (La Cenerentola), and also includes the famed Mussorgsky piece Night on Bald Mountain before finishing with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (1919). It’s a piece that Klein says is one of his favorites to work on – so much so that he prefers to conduct it without the score in front of him. “There are certain pieces that just seem to go better that way, and this is one that I really look forward to doing, and generally do from memory, and it’s a breathless experience from beginning to end, so the Firebird is a great way to complete this program.”
Listen to the podcast at: http://kdfcinteractive.org/audio/SOTA151019.mp3
The Peninsula Symphony gets its 67th season off to a Romantic start with a program of Berlioz, Rachmaninoff, and Dvorak this Friday and Saturday. Music Director Mitchell Sardou Klein says “If you were looking for an encyclopedia of what Romantic orchestral music is all about, you might pick this program.” They’ll be joined by soloist Soyeon Kate Lee for Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto.
There’s more information about the concert at the Peninsula Symphony website.
Soyeon Kate Lee, who won the prestigious Naumburg International Piano Competition in 2010 was a soloist Klein says he’d wanted to help open a season, to be a “magnetic first soloist.” Once they determined the concerto she’d be playing, he decided to pair it with Dvorak’s Seventh symphony, which marked a real turning point, both creatively and emotionally for the composer. Up until then, Klein says, “Dvorak was still thought of primarily as a tuneful, Bohemian, somewhat nationalistic lyrical writer. And that wasn’t entirely unfair. But just at that moment, Dvorak’s mother passed away, and his eldest child passed away.”
The events of his life worked their way into the symphony. “Especially in the second movement, he really pours his emotional heart into the music, which is something I don’t think he had ever really quite done on that level. There’s a point when the music just seems to come to a complete stop, and there is this mournful, grief-filled moment and time stands still, and he just pours his heart out… It’s a piece that really tells an inner story of personal grief and personal resolve that is not what Dvorak had done before, and which he does again only occasionally in his future. So I think it’s really in some ways his best work.”