Reviews of New Pop, Reissues, Jazz and Classical Releases

08.18.09
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
California Chronicle

By David Patrick Stearns

NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG "Together" Assad's "Impressions," Piazzolla's "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires," Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" and Gershwin's "Bess, You is My Woman Now." New Century Chamber Orchestra, Salerno-Sonnenberg violin and music director. (NSS Music, 3 stars)

The eternal question of what ever-restless Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg will do next is answered by this new disc with her listed as music director of the San Francisco-based New Century Chamber Orchestra. The album notes suggest she isn't conducting in the typical sense but acting as an unusually interventionist concert mistress while also choosing the repertoire for programs performed in the Bay Area. Unquestionably, performances have the imaginative, exciting, go-for-broke Salerno-Sonnenberg touch.

But you wish the orchestra had waited another year before recording. Though the Astor Piazzolla Four Seasons enjoys a flinty, witty, first-class performance, other pieces are plagued with tuning problems that aren't so noticeable in performance but are magnified by microphones. Especially rough is Clarice Assad's Impressions, which is full of infectiously Brazilian high spirits and enveloping warmth. Though the disc is anything but a showcase for Salerno-Sonnenberg's playing, what solo work there is indicates she's having a high old time.