"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