Salonen and Beethoven with the Santa Cruz Symphony

Josef Sekon, Peninsula Reviews:

“Two of today’s finest leading composer-conductors were represented: Maestro Danny Stewart on the podium conducting Karawane (2014), a composition by fellow colleague, Finnish Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen.”

“Maestro Stewart seemingly exhausted the many possibilities available from the vast orchestral color pallet designed by Salonen.”

“The effect was arresting, remarkably poignant, and an attractive primitive allusion in a contemporary setting.”

“The Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus under the keen eye and ear of Cheryl Anderson was wonderfully prepared for this vocal outer-space journey.”

“The orchestra and chorus blended with dynamics that were impressive.”

“Karawane was an exhilarating 21st century musical experience from Maestro Stewart’s very first downbeat!”

“The contrast between Karawane and the magnificent Mass in C Major, Op. 86 (1807) by Beethoven couldn’t be greater, but also served as a perfect compliment.”

“Maestro Stewart led a performance that was elegantly shaded, organic with tempi that felt just right, the performance pulsed and moved gracefully.”

Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz:

“The Santa Cruz Symphony conjured up an otherworldly experience last weekend with Invocations, a concert featuring the musical sophistication of four guest Metropolitan Opera soloists and Cheryl Anderson’s Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus alongside Daniel Stewart’s illustrious orchestra.”

“The final program of a brilliant 2018-19 Season opened with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s ‘Karawane’ “

“The musical innovations and playful rhythms of “Karawane” highlighted the chorus and orchestra’s technical virtuosity and harmonic collaboration.” 

“Under Maestro Daniel Stewart’s baton, the singers and musicians evoked the music’s hallucinogenic quality with excellent timing and raw emotional power. “

“The group unfolded the music layer by layer in a solemn, steady way; smoothly intermingling the surreal incantations and melodies, and inviting the listener to settle into a dream-like experience that felt both amusing and hypnotic.”

“In collaboration with the orchestra and chorus, these four outstanding artists conveyed the serenity and spirituality that Beethoven apparently intended when he composed the work.”

“Stewart led a performance of great poise and precision.  The ensemble lulled us into a meditative state of being with a tranquil and profound performance of Beethoven’s “Mass”. Sublime vocals by the four elegant soloists, potent drama from the chorus, and emotional substance from orchestral musicians were all gracefully interwoven in a beautiful musical blend.”

“Invocations was a stirring farewell to the SCS 2018-19 Concert Season as well as a reminder of what to look forward to in months to come. “

“As a symphonic and operatic conductor, Stewart continues to inspire with his creative choice of scores and performing artists.” 

“His announcement of the 2019-20 lineup indicates that historic music and international superstars will be lighting up local stages again soon.”

Symphonic Fire at The Santa Cruz Symphony

Peninsula Reviews:

“Stewart is a marvelously intelligent conductor, and to the amazement of all, continues to perform with keen attention to detail without a score.  In both works the orchestra displayed growth, development, individuality and clarity. The music’s intimacy and poetry were beautifully performed. “

“Jonah Kim is the Principal cellist of the Santa Cruz Symphony. There was an obvious thrill and feeling to this performance that made it irresistible. Under the brilliant direction of Conductor Daniel Stewart, cellist Kim’s nuanced performance of Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto demonstrated a deep understanding of the music’s emotional trajectory.  The Santa Cruz Orchestra established a backdrop that was warm, luminous and animated by a tangy freshness, as indeed was the playing of Kim. Concertmaster Nigel Armstrong and Maestro Stewart violist have performed together in intimate settings and nothing can replace such musical camaraderie.”

“During the entire performance, Maestro Stewart gave the illusion of a painter with a huge orchestral color palette. The performance was admirably detailed and beautifully crafted.”

Local Santa Cruz:

“This kind of virtuosity reminds us of what it sounds, looks and feels like to fully refine and commit to a craft, and be thrilled to share that sensitivity and skill with the world. In collaboration with the ever-energetic SCS orchestra, Jonah Kim reflected the stormy, sentimental themes imbued in Dvořák’s symphonic concerto. Stewart and Kim shared a generous musical interplay that showed a deep understanding and respect for the composition and their fellow musicians. ”

“Following the masterful work of Dvořák and Kim, the Santa Cruz Symphony gave a fiery rendition of Rachmaninoff’s last major composition, Symphonic Dances.  In both the Cello Concerto and Dances, Maestro Daniel Stewart and his elegant orchestra powerfully transmitted themes of nostalgia and reminiscence. These sentiments gained extra tension and intensity under Stewart’s baton.”

“The electricity SCS can generate was established once again in Symphonic Fire.  In moments of extended solo or as a unified collective, the musicians conveyed the mysterious quality of Rachmaninoff’s work like musical chameleons. Their play of orchestral color during the waltz tempo contributed to a feverish, dreamy feeling of dancing between the real and the ghostly.”

“In the finale, Stewart lets the music linger into the following silence like a trail of smoke after a flame has been extinguished.  It is only when the musicians finally settle that the audience remembers to breathe and ignites into applause.  Musical performances like this inspire us to leave the concert hall and return to life with renewed passion and motivation.”


Peninsula Reviews:

“Like the tortoise found in Hindu mythology, appearing capable of carrying the heavens on its back, one hears and witnesses towering achievements from our young conductor.”

“In order to reach such heights, Maestro Stewart has created an impressive musical atmosphere based on mutual respect and partnership.”

“When this occurs, impressive musical results are the artistic consequence, a fact the supportive audience has experienced during his tenure. “

“He has built the technical quality of the orchestra much in the manner of the late Pierre Boulez, and his contemporary Esa-Pekka Salonen now of the San Francisco Symphony, who forever look for perfection in details and refinement in the intimacy of the works they perform. “

“Especially evident was the orchestra’s sound in the Mozart Symphony No. 40. The orchestra’s development sounded like an impressive “major big city orchestra”! San Francisco take note!”

“Orchestral Mozart at its best shined with brilliance, and the maturity of Stewart’s thoughts on the music were pertinent and achieved unrestrained overall exhilaration.”

“As a final departing gesture, the orchestra performed an encore of Schumann’s Träumerei, touching and wonderfully done. BRAVO Maestro and orchestra!”

Local Santa Cruz:

“Under Maestro Daniel Stewart’s visionary direction, the Santa Cruz Symphony proves yet again its commitment to present groundbreaking music on local stages.”

“A contemporary pièce de résistance from Wineglass – the auspicious World Premiere of “Bonny Doon. SCS musicians gave a spirited performance that conjured up the sensations of a bird in flight with cinematic brilliance. Through his music, Wineglass captures the essence of the California Coast so vividly that even those unfamiliar with it will be able to imagine and appreciate its unique beauty.  The short piece was a thrilling ride ending with an enthusiastic standing ovation.”

“The orchestra also showed great ease and agility navigating the technical challenges of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.  SCS musicians work as a powerful collective, showing orchestral balance that blends impressive technical skill with emotional substance.  Their performance expressed the shifting moodiness of Mozart’s Symphony with precision and depth, illuminating the composer’s greatness at conveying the human experience, and making the feeling of intensity transparent and relatable for listeners.”

“In their performances, Stewart and his orchestra maintain the highest levels of artistic integrity in an atmosphere that feels welcoming and accessible. The Santa Cruz Symphony continues to elevate the arts in this community, defining what makes classical music transformative.”

Le Sacre du printemps, Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, & An American in Paris

Santa Cruz Symphony: Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps

Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews: October 28, 2018

“Once again, Stewart conducted all three works without the score!”

“The orchestra can consider itself elevated to the next level.”

“This performance certainly demonstrated the mark of high quality orchestral professionalism of the Santa Cruz Symphony and left its mark indelibly etched in the back of the cranium.”

“Controlled and well balanced under Stewart’s baton… Impeccably performed.”

“Throughout the performance the orchestra created exciting moments covering a wide spectrum of sound, from subtle tranquility to wild hysteria.” 

“Maestro Stewart pushed rhythmic structure, with its varying contrary, contradictory rhythms and unusual meters to its utmost, right to the final chord.” 

“The charismatic Stewart showed his appreciation for the excellent showing by shaking the hand and congratulating practically every member of the orchestra.” 

“A well deserved BRAVO”


Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz: October 30, 2018

“Maestro Daniel Stewart conjured up this sunny atmosphere and amorous pursuit like a wizard, transporting audiences to a warm place with sensual performances by his musicians.” 

“From the first delicate, intoxicating flute solo to the sumptuous, wide-ranging sound of the orchestra in full bloom, the musicians produced a narrative that was magical and seductive.”

“A remarkable understanding of the composers’ visions.” 

“A deliciously fresh and vivacious performance of George Gershwin’s ‘An American in Paris’.” 

“SCS musicians showed brilliant classical technique fused with a sensitivity for Gershwin’s jazzy inflections.” 

“The orchestra swept us out of the concert hall and on a stroll around bustling Parisian streets with a lively impression of the charm and chaos of a city and its people.” 

“Throughout the performance, everyone in the venue remained intensely focused, including the musicians, conductor, and audience.” 

“Maestro Stewart’s range from subtle signs to passionate gestures of the baton helped us participate in the emotional dynamics of the music.” 

“The musicians smoothly navigated the complex rhythmic structures and changeable moods of Stravinsky’s piece — each soft phrase, dramatic eruption or sudden shock of silence was impeccably controlled and synchronized by the orchestra.”

“The audience appears to breathe along with and react to Stewart’s direction, and the music becomes so absorbing that even the pauses between each movement are powerful.” 

“Whether evoking the atmosphere of a faun’s adventures, the contagious energy of a French city, or the mysterious qualities of nature evolving, the SCS orchestra does an exceptional job depicting diverse worlds and keeping the legacies of Debussy, Gershwin, and Stravinsky alive.”


Fidl-Fantazye: A Klezmer Concerto featured the composer and violin virtuoso soloist Noah Bendix-Balgley, a world-class violinist and currently the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

A most fascinating musical experience - soul searching, twisting, whirling - wonderful violin virtuosity - a unique, thoroughly enjoyable musical treat which also demonstrated the fantastic ability of the Santa Cruz Symphony.

The highly anticipated Mahler Symphony No. 4 was performed by the spirited Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of Maestro Danny Stewart, Music Director and Conductor extraordinaire.

To compound this intensity, once again Maestro Stewart conducted this masterpiece and the entire concert from memory!

It is quite obvious Stewart’s affinity for Mahler allows him to capture and magically express Mahler’s musical intensity.

The performance had a tremendous impact on the audience, especially the ‘Mahlerites’ who filled the Mello with eagerness and appreciation.

Stewart made certain the overall dynamic levels enabled subtleties to punctuate and add zest to the special textures designed by Mahler.

Most impressive throughout the concert was the Maestro’s attention and persistence to razor-sharp attacks that achieved significant musical dividends.

All four of the orchestral families performed with brilliance. The pizzicati in particular were quite special, as were the magnificent string textures.

Soprano Meigui Zhang sang with an amazing range that ran the gamut from from the most beautiful balance of soft, textural blending quality up to a rich, full volume of sound. Her German pronunciation was perfect.

A well deserved standing ovation followed this superb performance! BRAVO!

Joseph Sekon, Peninsula Reviews

The Santa Cruz Symphony began its 2018-19 season last weekend with a program featuring world-renowned soloists from the Berlin Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.

The season’s opening concert was an exciting reminder of Maestro Daniel Stewart’s imagination as Music Director.

Through his visionary leadership, the Santa Cruz Symphony (SCS) continues to introduce us to internationally acclaimed guest artists.

Their remarkable performances are matched by the chameleon-like abilities of our local musicians who easily adapt to diverse musical styles.

Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla showed the Santa Cruz orchestra at its best.

Under Stewart’s baton the musicians merged as a powerful ensemble.

In their fiery performance of Glinka’s Russian piece every instrument sprang vividly to life, each individual solo was played with intensity, and together they produced the kind of orchestral fireworks that make staying seated a challenge.

Following this was the highly anticipated spotlight on Noah Bendix-Balgley, the prize-winning first Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, performing the West Coast premiere of his Klezmer violin concerto, Fidl-Fantazye.

Bendix-Balgley combines the two traditions in his innovative concerto. In a spirited musical dance with the orchestra, he brought the spontaneous element of the klezmer style to the classical concert stage with full-bodied emotion and lightening-like speed.

Led by Stewart’s smooth gestures and intermingling with Zhang’s warm and uplifting vocals, the orchestra transmitted the inherent qualities and celestial mood of Mahler’s composition with a soft, expansive performance.

The concert was a synthesis of talents and traditions; an experience that gave listeners and performers alike an opportunity to appreciate music through both familiar and forward-thinking arrangements.

Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz

Life-affirming. A triumphant, transcendent finale.

Life-affirming. A triumphant, transcendent finale.

Mahler’s profound messages were powerfully transmitted by the Santa Cruz Symphony, featuring incredible local and guest talent conducted by Music Director Daniel Stewart. 

Through the combination of individual technical excellence and harmonious group cohesion, the musicians and vocalists gave listeners a meaningful experience, echoing Mahler’s philosophical content through a soulful performance.

The Santa Cruz orchestra communicated the existential questions and emotions of Mahler’s musical language with a nuanced ebb and flow, theatrically conveying light and heavy moments of life and death, and the nostalgic moods of human beings. 

The hushed, unified choral voices emerged supernaturally, and the rich, haunting vocals of each star soloist conveyed a breathtaking sense of the mystical.

In the final movements, the distancing of offstage musicians dispersed throughout the SC Civic Auditorium made the experience of an otherworldly afterlife all the more dramatic and magical. 

Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz



It is indeed impressive when a young conductor makes musical magic on the podium and transforms the vast ideas of a composer such as Gustav Mahler into unremitting musical intensity. To compound this intensity, once again Maestro Daniel Stewart conducted this masterpiece from memory! 

Throughout the sprawling score Stewart adhered to Mahler’s instructions. A brilliantly executed performance that had a tremendous impact on members of the sold out audience.

Maestro Stewart’s emphasis on keeping the large orchestra moving through the 90 minute symphony resulted in a continuous sense of atmosphere and meaningful contrasting strategy on a monumental scale. 

Stewart urged string players to remain on the cutting edge of audibility with stunning effectiveness

Not only did Maestro Stewart meet the challenge of the first movement with an appropriate amount of weight and breath to fix itself in the minds of the audience, but he also gave us a foreshadowing of the great events about to unfold. The lovely ascending transitional theme that followed flowed naturally and gave it lyrical grace by the sensitivity of Stewart’s direction and the playing of an orchestra that not only was prepared, but steeped and inspired in the challenge of Mahler’s music. The concept of the essential funeral lament was performed as Mahler meant it to be, with controlled intensity and a fine sense of inner tension. The closing section interjected an image that seemed to be whispered, but only in the mind, as an illusion. a sound of levitation and wonder. 

Stewart’s direction kept the orchestral textures churning while shaping Mahler’s rhythmic figures with freshness and accuracy that always maintained excellent overall balance. The supple and rich string playing, expressive woodwind (solo oboe in particular) and infallibly accurate and mellow-toned brass, performed throughout the concert with unfailing sensitive precision. 

Director Stewart assured that the very grand final pages had tremendous impact, full of the Mahler-prescribed gravity and solemnity of expression. The brass blare, the chorus and soloists sailed on wings of highly defined ecstasy. 

Maestro Stewart guided the orchestra, chorus and soloists with deep expressivity through its long journey with a sure hand to its tumultuous grand finale. 

Kudos to Maestro Daniel Stewart, orchestra, chorus and soloists - a compelling performance in all respects!

Joseph Sekon, Peninsula Reviews




Daniel Stewart took the Santa Cruz Symphony to places many of its musicians had never been before

Stewart conducted the work entirely from memory, his body language both leading and reacting to every detail of its sprawling pageant.

The Symphonic Chorus, inspired and highly disciplined Santa Cruz Symphony musicians and their talented music director Daniel Stewart collectively went out on a limb for this extremely challenging work—With it, they ended their 60th Anniversary season by raising their own bar even higher. 

As for Mahler, happily they will perform his Fourth Symphony on the opening program of their 61st season. Meanwhile, as I write this, the “Resurrection” Symphony continues to echo in my ears. I can’t get it out of my head, and I don’t want it to.

Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay

"A vision of what classical music can be, bravely foretelling a new way to incorporate our daily life and reflect it in the symphony hall"


"My sculpture professor told me that there are 2 main ways an artist can express himself successfully. One is to have their work timely, within the context of the era in which they live. The other is to have a vision that leads the way into the future. Daniel Stewart has done at least one of those successfully. I closed my eyes during Daniel's premiere of his new piece "Social Media" and the music was so timely, a rush of events that have happened in the last year came rushing into my minds "ear" and eye. To have evoked this personal response is a marvel of his genius, now we will see if the world will see his efforts worthy of the second category - a vision of what classical music can be, bravely foretelling a new way to incorporate our daily life and reflect it in the symphony hall. Bravo!"

-David John Morse, Violin Maker




"Maestro Daniel Stewart unveiled a tour de force of virtuosity and artistry supported by the ever more distinguished Santa Cruz Symphony. Sunday’s concert at the Mello Center opened with Mozart’s delightful Overture to The Marriage of Figaro (1786), with the orchestra bringing joy and spontaneity to each phrase. This work was the first of two works by Mozart, both impeccably performed and thoroughly enjoyed by all!

The World Premiere of Maestro Stewart’s Social Media (2017) was a musical kaleidoscope that journeyed through a calculated, complex world of emotions and expression. The compositional form was splendidly flexible and combined state of the art Midi electronic sound with an ever present orchestral blend of strings, percussion, winds and brass. From a fast and furious opening to restrained, impressionistic moments touched by personal comments, one could conjure a variety of conclusions. Midi electronic rhythmic groupings opened the work and in timely fashion modulated into moments of well orchestrated musical structures. Social Media is a full-toned musical experience with big dynamics. Razor-sharp rhythmic drive emphasizes the concept that contemporary scores are coded documents that must be deep analyzed in order to decode their messages. The calm mid section, predominately orchestral employing strings and clarinet arpeggios allowed for a moment of restfulness, reflection and demonstrated the Maestro’s compositional creativity. Once again the rhythmic pulse entered and heightened the texture leading into a recapitulation. Judging by the audience reaction, Social Media earned a successful World Premiere.

Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola K 364 (1779) featured the distinguished In Sun Jang on violin and Maestro Danny Stewart on viola. Elegantly attired in a black concert dress, In Sun performed glorious arches of phrasing that coupled with the viola counterpart creating lush string textures. Unlike a pianist conducting from the piano facing the orchestra, Maestro Stewart had the challenge of facing the audience and giving orchestra directions, bow in hand whenever possible. Nonetheless, the result was impeccable. The second slow Andante stirred a haunting quality against the steady pulse of the cellos and basses.

Their playing represented the ne plus ultra of the classical style. In Sun’s vivid detail and clear understanding not only put every note in place, but invested it with profound feeling. The balance between soloists and orchestra was flawless.

The cascades of notes glided with elegance and phrasings were exquisitely tapered with no hint of effort. This was a wonderful concert experienced by all and a grand standing ovation was certainly in order!"

-Joseph Sekon, Peninsula Reviews






"The Santa Cruz Symphony’s recent production, Celebration!, was a gift to the romantic imagination, reminding us with music of the rapture associated with being alive.

As always, SCS fostered a memorably vibrant exchange between the orchestra and soloists; performers and audience, reviving work by iconic composers and introducing us to innovative music and musicians.

The program opened with a buoyant rendition of Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro that was brisk and flirtatious. Maestro Daniel Stewart led a fresh, lively performance that highlighted the orchestra’s talent for accenting details and telling a story through colorful melodies.

Along with the many virtues of his conducting, Stewart shines as a musician and composer. SCS presented the world premiere of Social Media, which Stewart composed in 2017 in honor of the 60th Anniversary Season. He views music as the “original social media” – a medium that connects audiences to the significant issues and ideas of any given time. Speed, unpredictability, and futuristic keyboard notes gave Stewart’s composition a relevant feel and contemporary texture. The orchestra conveyed the fast pace and overwhelming influence of technology and social media in modern life, vividly representing the era in which we live through striking sounds.

The orchestra gave an exhilarating performance of Harrison’s Suite, narrating the lighthearted mood of the original ballet story and capturing the dazzling, dramatic aspects of Parisian culture and everyday life.

 Stewart and Jang’s elegance, compatibility, and decorative styles as individual musicians was reflected in their bright partnership on stage. Stewart provided a spirited accompaniment on viola to Jang’s graceful violin tone and nuances. The two soloists complimented each other with exquisite harmony, enhanced by rich, sumptuous flavors from the surrounding orchestra. As a collective, the soloists and orchestra reacted and blended creatively to transmit Mozart’s luminous, multi-layered sounds.

A revelation to experience a performance that keeps us enraptured and leaves a lingering impression long after the celebration has ended."

-Fleur Williams, Local Santa


"The Symphony’s reputation continues to grow as a serious force in the classical music world."

"Stewart happens to be uncommonly successful at getting the best from his musicians."
"As a result the Santa Cruz Symphony has become one of the premiere orchestras of the greater Central California region."
"That it operates with a $1 million budget, far smaller than other orchestras in the greater SF Bay Area, seems only to underscore Stewart’s impact."
"Stewart conducted the entire program from memory. For some conductors, that amounts to little more than showing off. But not here."

"Michelle Bradley, a rising star of the The Metropolitan Opera who was making good her third appearance here. ‘Good’ is an understatement."
"Bradley filled the Mello with her radiant golden sound. Her phrasing and breath control were, well, breathtaking."  
"Just as the soloist must immerse herself in long, seamless phrases, so must the orchestra, which responded with restrained grandeur and ascendant dignity."

"Rimsky-Korsakov composed Scheherazade exactly 130 years ago, yet on Sunday in Watsonville it was as fresh and invigorated as when its executants got up that morning and prepared to go to work."
"When Armstrong took his many turns in that solo role he did so on his own terms. Stewart simply stood back and savored those moments, often with a broad smile on his face."
"In fact, he gave those solos throughout the orchestra plenty of individual latitude, a rarity among less-confident orchestra conductors."
"But Stewart, whose podium choreography is filled with unguarded joy, keeps a firm hand on balances, dynamics, phrasing, entries and cut-offs, and the big picture, that essential image that can come only from a singular vision."

Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay


"The Symphony’s reputation continues to grow as a serious force in the classical music world."
"The stirring performances brought musical poetry and exceptional local and guest talent to Santa Cruz stages, and shared the Symphony’s consistent and expansive artistic vision."
"Part of the pleasure in experiencing the Santa Cruz Symphony is observing Maestro Daniel Stewart direct a group of musicians who understand so precisely his vibrant podium personality and every gesture."
"Achieving a natural ebb and flow, and producing sounds both subtle and palpable, Stewart and the musicians revealed the varying melodies of Wagner’s opera that tell the story of playful rivalry between competing singers."

"Bradley poured out a warm, soulful delivery of the poetic lyrics."
"Under the guidance of Daniel Stewart, the soprano and orchestra musicians proceeded at a smooth, steady, well-judged pace."
"Infused with Bradley’s captivating vocal depth, the orchestra produced a sense of calm solemnity and surges of emotion that reflected this profound theme."

"The most breathtaking experience of the evening was the Symphony’s performance of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s passionate “Scheherezade”"
"The musicians conjured up a lush interpretation of the orchestral adventure with spine-tingling accents from harp, string, and wind instruments."
"Particularly striking was the Santa Cruz Symphony’s concertmaster Nigel Armstrong. In his solo moments, the violinist managed to appear impassioned yet always unstrained and effortless with even the most delicate and demanding of notes."
"Between Armstrong’s precision, Stewart’s panache, and the orchestra’s rich expression, the Symphony conveyed the electricity of “Scheherezade’s” final, resplendent moments at a thrillingly high voltage."
"As always, audiences noticeably spring to their feet to applaud these highly refined performances."

Fleur Willians, Local Santa Cruz


"Musically, the standards of the Santa Cruz Symphony reached a strikingly high mark on January 28, thanks to Music Director Daniel Stewart’s direct, beautifully balanced conducting, and the marvelous vocal talent of Michelle Bradley."
"Case in point was found in the wonderful and impressive voice of soprano Michelle Bradley, who fills every role with finesse, awesome breath control and depth of performance."
"Maestro Stewart blended the orchestra magnificently allowing for Ms. Bradley’s long-breathed cantilena to become the central characteristic of his Last Four Songs."
"With this in mind, many moments Ms. Bradley’s magnificent deep, powerfully beautiful voice soared like a magical bird and filled the entire Mello Center."
"Under the keen ear of Stewart, the vitally important violin solos performed by concertmaster Nigel Armstrong were impeccable — string playing and singing perfectly blended into a superb musical experience of quality and class."

"This was orchestral Wagner at its best!"
"The beautiful, blended quality of the horns and trumpets emphasized Wagner’s love for the orchestra’s brass family"
"Each of the four musical families performed as if they were soloists competing against each other."

"Scheherazade conveyed a musical electricity of high voltage."
"Each of the four movements featured the violin virtuosity and artistry of concertmaster Nigel Armstrong and collaborating harpist Madeline Jarzembak, whose playing echoed the lines of the violin with perfection."
"Throughout the dynamic range the resonance of violin tone was superb."
"Noteworthy were the many solo moments by the horn, bassoon, tuba and percussion. The quasi recitando bassoon solo and the espressivo oboe solo that follows were masterfully performed."

"In each of the three works performed, the entire symphony reflected Stewart’s satisfying mixture of imagination, intuition and excellent musical sense, and these works were performed without score!"
"In his customary gesture, the charismatic Maestro wove his way through the entire orchestra offering congratulations to practically every member of this fine orchestra he has worked so hard to assemble."

Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews


A conductor who, with laser-etched technical authority and equally focused podium charisma, also gave the full-house audience a master class in what a podium artist is supposed to do.'

Performing Arts Monterey Bay
'A virtuoso display from start to finish. The Santa Cruz team of musicians took obvious confidence from a conductor who, with laser-etched technical authority and equally focused podium charisma, also gave the full-house audience a master class in what a podium artist is supposed to do.'
'As SC audiences have come to expect, Stewart seemed to be everywhere at once, tossing out cues like a Las Vegas poker dealer, and reveling in the way his musicians played their hands. No hesitation or uncertainty was detectable and none of the counterpoint blurred.'
'Once again, Stewart scaled the dynamics, brought out the inner voices—and organized his approach around a leading musical line. He did it all by heart. It was fleet, transparent and, yes, hair raising, just what every Beethoven lovers wants to hear.'
'This concert took the audience into its grip with no equivocation. The orchestra was sensational from beginning to end, and particularly spectacular in the opulent Adams and Bernstein scores.'
‘What a fabulous result!’


Peninsula Reviews
'The fortunate audience witnessed a performance that will be etched in the back of their craniums forever. The highly anticipated Beethoven Symphony No. 7 under the direction of Santa Cruz Symphony Music Director Danny Stewart raised the bar for this work by what appeared to be an insurmountable measure. The orchestra performed brilliantly!'
'Maestro Stewart cued in the entrances with a precision that held together the digital like repetitions that little by little took on interesting shape, form and yes, a foxtrot! The sudden pauses and tempo changes were well placed and performed.'
'Impressive Latin rhythmic punctuations, superb drumming and three stand-up trumpeters towards the finale were executed with spot on perfection!'
'The Beethoven Symphony No. 7 can be best described in one word: Glorious!'
'Meticulous attention to dynamics and the precise rhythmic structure … performed to an amazing musical level!'
'Stewart’s conducting included a mixture of sweeping and detailed moments that created pin sharp textures. The balance between orchestral song-like quality and rhythm was electrifying.'
'The entire symphony reflected Stewart’s satisfying mixture of imagination, intuition and excellent musical sense!'


Local Santa Cruz
'Through their virtuosity, Maestro Daniel Stewart and the orchestra communicated vivid impressions of diverse people, places, and experiences linked with bodily motion. Together they conveyed with energy and commitment each composer’s emotional depth and musical range, revealed elements of dance throughout, and all but brought us to our feet during the performance to participate in it.'
'The orchestra created a vibrant image of the personalities, cultural fusion, and nostalgic exchange that inspired Adams’ music. Gracefully performing music laced with intricate and alternating tempos, the musicians evoked the spirited movement of the Foxtrot as danced by Chinese leader Mao Zedong and his charismatic mistress Chiang Ch’ing during the historic visit with President Nixon and his wife Pat.'
'An outstanding performance. Reinforced by their combined skills and techniques, the orchestra powerfully conveyed the various rhythms and styles of movement and elevated the emotional intensity of both Adams and Bernstein’s music.'
'The Symphony reflected the legendary steps and score with each explosive burst and lilting sway of the music.'
'The music reflects both the devastating tragedy and the celebratory victory that characterized this time and defines the human experience. The orchestra expressed this dynamic with passion and vitality and evoked the power of musical and dance storytelling.'
'Throughout the entire concert, Maestro Stewart inspired the musicians and audience with his dramatic emphasis, most memorably in the final moments of Symphony No. 7 when, as the movement builds in intensity, he swept musicians and audiences up in a fully charged, “dance till you drop” crescendo.'

“Santa Cruz Symphony delivers stunning rendition of Vivaldi, Holst”

"There was a buzz in the air … The might and vitality which Stewart brought out of the orchestra was just outrageous - in a fantastic way!"
"Highly successful … Something to behold … Took my breath away … It was all incredibly stunning."
"Regular patrons of the Santa Cruz Symphony and first-timers alike came away knowing that they would be back for more in this spectacular 60th anniversary season."
-Santa Cruz Sentinel

"To sum up this concert in one word would be quite impossible, however, I believe “brilliant” would lead one in the correct direction!"
"The orchestra’s reputation under Stewart has spread like wildfire."
"Stewart paid meticulous attention to detail, in particular to dynamics and the precise articulation. The result was a most compelling performance."
"Bravo Maestro and orchestra for a spectacular opening concert!"
-Peninsula Reviews

"The spine-tingling music and resounding applause from the Symphony performances are no doubt still reverberating around the walls of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Watsonville Mello Center."
"Music Director and Conductor Daniel Stewart’s multiple gifts as a musical leader are visible in his dedication to engaging with local artists as well as musicians of international renown."
"The Music of the Spheres production was a thrilling reminder of how lucky we are to have such phenomenal musical talent in our community, and what we can look forward to in the months ahead."
"The Santa Cruz Symphony brought these iconic scores to life in refreshing ways … an otherworldly experience that brought our attention upwards to “the Spheres”."
-Local Santa Cruz

Boston Ballet featured in the Huffington Post

Yuja Wang plays Beethoven and Brahms with the Santa Cruz Symphony

San Francisco Classical Voice

Nothing short of miraculous. The sheer excitement of witnessing such extraordinary musicmaking was an experience to be remembered.

The Queen of the Piano…The energy and excitement would not have been any less if Taylor Swift were about to appear.

She teased with subtle rubato and ritardando, challenging the orchestra to come along, but Stewart was always attentive to her signals, delivering harmonious support from the orchestra. 

As if the two concerti weren’t enough, Yuja responded to the audience’s fervor by performing three encores. The audience sighed, and was left mesmerized beyond what any pop queen could achieve.



Local Santa Cruz

Through their intimate involvement with their art, Yuja, Stewart, and the orchestral musicians drew us in to an unforgettable musical experience.

The audience was riveted and the anticipation was palpable.  At the end of each captivating movement, there was an audible sound of people remembering to breathe again.

The packed houses and thunderous audience ovations confirm Yuja’s status as one of this century’s most phenomenal artists; her collaboration with SCS verifies our orchestra’s superb commitment to bringing world-renowned artistry to local stages.

The orchestra was in complete attunement with Yuja’s range of creative expression. Maestro Stewart navigated the musicians in a graceful narrative that captured the poetic essence of Beethoven and Brahms. Yuja and Stewart’s instinctual understanding of the varied tempos and character within each composition made the music flow and come to life. 

Cause for celebration. Yuja’s playfulness during her multiple encores was a bright conclusion to such a powerful show.



Peninsula Reviews

Perfection was achieved. Rare, innovative programming, performed with brilliance, BRAVO!

Yuja Wang’s playing of this concerto displayed a flawless sense of the music’s ebb, flow and surge with exquisitely tapered phrasing. 

Intense attention to detail on the part of both Stewart and Yuja Wang.

Impressive emotional abandon, tempered at times by eloquent restraint of tone and dynamics — all perfectly coordinated under the baton of Stewart. 

Yuja demonstrated a sense of natural, refined technique that produced lavish color and subtle nuances.

Both the orchestra and soloist displayed ferocious temperament, brilliant virtuosity and poetic soul. The intensity of Yuja’s octave passages was simple awesome.

Both Maestro Stewart and Yuja Wang are impressive musical talents.


Daniel Stewart Makes a Statement with ‘Yuja II’

Acclaim for Verdi's Requiem with the Santa Cruz Symphony

Peninsula Reviews:

"Profoundly moving… Monumental and compelling throughout the 90-minute performance!"

"Stewart maintained an uncompromisingly close rapport with the soloists, orchestra and chorus throughout the concert. Directing from memory without a score, Stewart’s eye contact and gestures reflected his in-depth understanding of Verdi’s compositional intentions."

"Stewart guided and balanced with dynamic clarity the liturgical and operatic elements that followed the serenity of the opening moments — drawing our attention beyond any doubt to Verdi’s central conflict between terror and consolation."

"Stewart understood the musical, dynamic contrast between the pleas of post-mortal redemption and terrifying horror of Judgment Day."

"Maestro Danny Stewart was inspiring, and brought compelling emotional depth to the Santa Cruz Symphony, Chorus and soloists. They rose to an extraordinary artistic level high above their usual excellent playing."

"Bravo Maestro, orchestra, chorus and soloists for truly a monumental performance!"


Local Santa Cruz:

"Performed with superior technical skill and passionate conviction. The emotional intensity and majestic serenity of Verdi’s composition was powerfully expressed."

"Guided by Maestro Daniel Stewart’s commanding stage presence, the operatic, choral, and orchestral voices were consistently balanced and in harmony with each other."

"Stewart’s understanding of Requiem’s theatricality was apparent in his precise direction of each rhythmic contrast."

"The Symphony orchestra, Cabrillo Chorus, and guest soloists supported each other in service to Verdi’s music, making the profound quality of Requiem palpable."

"Stewart, the singers, and musicians conveyed the spiritual meaning and depth of mood."

"SCS performances go beyond entertainment to create an experience of music that is compelling and accessible to a modern audience."

"What makes the Santa Cruz Symphony so widely respected is how brilliantly it interprets on the modern stage."


Performing Arts Monterey Bay:

"Hair-raising stuff that shook the very foundations of the Mello concert hall."

"The choice of Michelle Bradley, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Stuart Neill and Peixin Chen, all with major operatic experience, was inspired. Their voices soared over the orchestra to fill the hall."

"The orchestra, for its part, was acutely responsive to conductor Stewart’s fully-memorized, finely shaped and dynamically presented vision."

"Not only one of my all-time favorite performances, but a highly memorable one as well. Daniel Stewart, his solo quartet, Cheryl Anderson’s Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus and the Santa Cruz Symphony itself have given me a fresh new impression that I will cherish."

Santa Cruz Sentinel:

"People around me were literally jumping out of their seats"

"One of the strengths of Daniel Stewart’s leadership of the Santa Cruz Symphony since he took over as music director three years ago is the high caliber of artists he has brought to the town. Last weekend was no exception. With four outstanding soloists, two of whom herald from the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist development program, a program for which Stewart had the honor of being its first conductor, the Symphony’s performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” was impressive. Their projection combined with the keen ear of Stewart that not a note of their solos and ensembles was lost amidst the rich orchestration."


Yuja Wang Returns to Santa Cruz for Surprise Encore Concerts

For Immediate Release—Santa Cruz, Calif. Santa Cruz Symphony Music Director, Daniel Stewart announced at the March 25 & 26 “Fratres” concerts that Yuja Wang will be returning to Santa Cruz County for a surprise set of encore concerts on June 24 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and June 25 at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville.

“Following the rapturous reception to Yuja Wang's debut with the Santa Cruz Symphony this past February, it is a unique honor to look forward to presenting her for the second time this season, in a pair of surprise encore concerts. After having brought the final concertos of both Prokofiev and Brahms for our previous concerts, we thought it would be fun to program the first concertos of both Beethoven and Brahms for our next concerts together,” states Music Director Daniel Stewart. “Where else in the world could one hope to hear Yuja Wang perform four piano concertos in four months?”

It is a distinct tribute to her working relationship with Stewart that she is returning so quickly to perform with him and the Santa Cruz Symphony again.

“Under Stewart’s inspired guidance, Yuja and the orchestra created a musical conversation within the challenging concertos that left a lasting impression of symphonic harmony,” said Fleur Williams of Local Santa Cruz of their first concerts in February.
“Yuja Wang is one of those incredible pianists...with the ability to set the keyboard on fire with her technical capacity and musical prowess to master a nearly impossible work while displaying a depth of understanding and an effortless virtuosity,” said Joe Sekon of “She demonstrated these skills in Sunday’s concert where she was perfectly matched with Maestro Stewart’s keen ear and direction.

San Francisco Classical Voice agrees. “The orchestra under Stewart’s baton was crisp, energetic, and tightly wound. Yuja matched this quality with ease. The result was an enjoyable performance of a spiky concerto.”

For those who have yet to see Yuja Wang live in concert, this is an opportunity to hear, as the Washington Post describes her, “quite simply, the most uncannnily gifted pianist in the concert world today."

Tickets go on sale at noon Wednesday March 29 online at, at the Civic Box Office at 307 Church Street in Santa Cruz or by calling the box office at (831) 420-5260.


Local Santa Cruz

"The Santa Cruz Symphony Uplifts Us Again"

"The Santa Cruz Symphony has once again done what it does best: commemorating world-famous scores and composers from the past, spotlighting distinguished contemporary musicians, and bringing audiences to the edge of their seats."

"As with all of their classical concerts, the performances highlighted remarkable technical ability, creative ingenuity, and compelling stage presence."

"The Symphony’s choices in material and artists define what makes classical music the rich art form that captivates and uplifts audiences."

"A slow, gradual crescendo emphasized how moments of pause hold as much power as movement, and had listeners spellbound."

Peninsula reviews

"The audience was once again treated to Director Daniel Stewart’s innovative programming."

"Most impressive was the control of dynamics performed in all three works."

"This performance exemplified the kind of subtle control of dynamics more commonly found in commercially-produced recordings than in live performances! On this very point alone the Santa Cruz Symphony has risen to yet another important level."

"The overall effect was superb — it was a new sound experience in precise control employing minimal motion that created a floating and surreal almost mystical sonority. Very well executed!"

"Bursts of orchestral energy reinforced the idea with impressive, contrasting dynamics shaping the contours of the ideas Schubert had composed."

"The cryptic references to the previous movements were masterfully combined by Stewart with fine orchestral precision and impressive tonal balance to its very conclusion. This concert was unique and thoroughly enjoyed by the overwhelming applause!"


Performing Arts Monterey Bay

"Daniel Stewart and the strings of his Santa Cruz Symphony gave one of their best shows. I don’t remember when this ensemble of violins, violas, cello and basses sounded better."

"Stewart demonstrated commitment to and skill in preserving the character of the string quartet itself, modulating the dynamics accordingly. Likewise was the musicians’ response to his subtle phrasing and molding of the nearly 45-minute score that is notorious for undoing less than the most-seasoned ensembles who take it on. The range of dynamics ran from fortissimo to pianissimo, back and forth, as well as the ‘mezzos’ in between."

Santa Cruz Sentinel


"The rich string sound was magical."

"When Stewart broke the news that Wang would be returning to Santa Cruz in late June in an additional concert to the regular season his news was greeted with rapturous applause from the audience who were thrilled at the prospect."

"Santa Cruz Symphony: Yuja Wang Triumphs"

Local Santa Cruz:
Yuja’s detailed expression and rhythmic precision beautifully matched Maestro Daniel Stewart’s sensitivity for mood and timing. Under Stewart’s inspired guidance, Yuja and the orchestra created a musical conversation within the challenging concertos that left a lasting impression of symphonic harmony

Peninsula Reviews
Orchestral balance was superbly supportive and imaginative. Well done orchestra, Yuja Wang and Maestro Stewart for yet another unforgettable musical experience!

Performing Arts Monterey Bay
Stewart was animated and boldly in charge on the podium. His orchestra measured up to great effect but also felt the weight of the piece.

SF Classical Voice
The orchestra under Stewart’s baton was crisp, energetic, and tightly wound. Yuja matched this quality with ease. The result was an enjoyable performance of a spiky concerto.