"Stewart was masterful in maintaining excellent balance between the complex counterpoint of themes and ideas...Most impressive, both Nyx and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony were conducted from memory, without a score!"
Highlights include superstar Yuja Wang in an all-piano concerto program of Salonen and Brahms; Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with a cast from the Metropolitan Opera; a politically themed season opening program of Bernstein, Beethoven, Molicone, and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony; and Verdi's Messa da Requiem.
"Maestro Stewart brought textural clarity to the work, enhanced by the exceptionally subtle dialogue between sections of the orchestra. Most noteworthy were several beautiful endings of phrases that slowly, calmly vanished into nothingness. Wow!"
Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews
"'Inventing America,' the title of last weekend's offering from the Santa Cruz Symphony, might easily be changed to 'Reinventing the Santa Cruz Symphony.' Such was the power and majesty of this opening program under the leadership of Daniel Stewart."
Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
"The Symphony’s program, titled “Pacific Perspectives,” included two works composed right on our doorstep: Lou Harrison’s “Pacifika Rondo” (1963) and maestro Daniel Stewart’s “Sinfonia” (2011). The room was bursting with excitement as the audience waited with anticipation to hear the new maestro’s own composition. The piece was a colorful patchwork combining jazz elements, blues scales, syncopated rhythms and instrumentation of Argentinean tango with a vocabulary of ostinato, polytonality and a smattering of aleatoric notation, and featured exciting woodwind solos, lush warm unison strings and a battery of percussion instruments.
Musical elements from Korean and Japanese court music and Chinese chamber music, with a smattering of Mexican and Spanish-colonial music come together in “Pacifika Rondo” that, like the ocean has a circular form in its seven movements. The Santa Cruz Symphony was joined on stage by musicians renowned for their expertise in performing on the piri, sheng, kayageum and fipple flutes that Harrison’s score requires, exposing the audience a variety of timbres that was most refreshing."
Lou Harrison’s 30-minute seven-movement Pacifika Rondo was a treat that engaged the entire audience. What a feast of sounds!
From the look of it, Stewart must have loved mastering and performing the piece. The audience responded with sustained applause.
Stewart’s own Sinfonia, composed in 2010, was about as eclectic in style as an orchestral piece can be.
Rhythmically challenging, it, like the Harrison, drew smiles from the musicians. …from the mysterious to the eruptive……a lushly cinematic display"
Sinfonia is a most interesting, well thought out composition that will enjoy many future performances.
...high rhythmic percussive energy on a palette of many musical colors that modulated into numerous delightful textures.....a beautifully designed lyrical string section"
"Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings opened the concert with quiet contemplation...a subdued mood that was reinforced by clean attacks and excellent intonation throughout. The long melodic lines were balanced for utmost clarity.
The Santa Cruz Symphony strings showed their maturity and skill in the final work, Serenade for Strings in C by Tchaikovsky…The orchestra achieved a fullness of sound that was gratifying to hear. The Waltz movement was elegantly played. The high point of the performance was the third movement, Elegy, delivered with heartfelt phrasing and warm sound. A high level of performance marked this concert throughout."
In the fall of 2012, Stewart was appointed conductor of the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and working closely with these outstanding artists at the beginning of their careers has enabled him to bring them to Santa Cruz. Earlier this year Chinese baritone 25-year-old Yunpeng Wang gave a thrilling rendition of Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfaring Lad." This time Stewart brought soprano Ying Fang who delighted the audience in Bach's "Wedding Cantata" and the "Bachiana Brasileira No. 5" by Villa-Lobos. Fang was able to seamlessly transition from Baroque to 20th century music in the twinkling of an eye. What supreme artistry!
The orchestral soloists responded well to the assertive conducting of maestro Stewart who thanked each member of the orchestra individually on stage at the end of the concert in a gesture indicative of his close relationship to this orchestra which continues to grow and flourish."
"The Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of its Director Daniel Stewart programmed three of the most interestingly diverse works one can recall. Concert number two “Dreams and Visions” featured soprano Ying Fang, yet another bright shinning star from the Metropolitan Opera Company.
Fang’s wonderful mastery and impressive range blended with the cellos to create a passionate musical aura that hovered over the audience like incense filled smoke. All of this was flawlessly balanced and blended by Stewart.
"But credit goes as much to Daniel Stewart whose vision of the piece was not short of revelatory. One standout of Stewart’s conducting style is the sharp contrast of articulation between rhythmically charged passages and adjacent lyrical ones. Not only does he have a clear idea in mind but he communicates it equally well. Everything in this performance made sense… the finale, that sui generis miracle of counterpoint, was nothing short of breathtaking"
"Maestro Stewart balanced and blended the orchestral ensemble well with the piano assuring that the piano was both prominent as soloist as well as part of the overall texture. It became apparent there was exact precision in the integration between the images, the motivic processes and harmonic textural orchestration. Moments of chaotic, opaque textures became glued together and then liquidated into bright more tranquil moments under Stewart’s direction. This performance received a deserved standing ovation by the supportive audience!"
He showed himself to not only be at ease in this situation but, in conducting without a score, illustrated his deep and secure knowledge of the works: A most successful conclusion to an enterprising and enjoyable season of varied music."
"After firmly establishing his reputation, Maestro Daniel Stewart announced an exciting second season with the Santa Cruz County Symphony. The Maestro’s unique programming and inspirational conducting style has endeared him to both musicians and concertgoers, who have been attending in numbers never before seen in the organization’s 56-year history. He’s shaking things up and making classical music accessible to all types of people."
"The orchestra players paid keen attention to every nuance Stewart cued in realizing the colorful orchestration Stravinsky employed in his Pulcinella Suite. The work proceeded with delicate dynamic balance, flawless phrasing and virtuosity by the wind, brass and string players throughout the entire piece."