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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
St. Cecilia Choir & Cantiamo Sonoma with the Incarnation Orchestra / Friday, April 10, 2009
Conductor: J. Karla Lemon
Soloists: Carol Menke, soprano; Christopher Fritzsche, alto; Kevin Baum, tenor; Tom Hart, bass

GOOD FRIDAY GETS BETTER WITH HAYDN MASS

by Steve Osborn
Friday, April 10, 2009

Franz Joseph Haydn was not quite as prolific with masses as with symphonies, but he did he write 14 of the former nonetheless. For their annual Good Friday concert on April 10, the St. Cecilia Choir joined forces with Cantiamo, the Incarnation Orchestra, four soloists and conductor J. Karla Lemon to perform No. 12, the Theresienmesse, in the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa.

The crowded conditions around the altar were more than reflected in the church itself, where ushers had to squeeze at least seven people into pews that normally hold only five or six. The oversold house only added to the festive atmosphere and to the close connection many in the audience felt to their hometown choirs, soloists and orchestra.

The program notes provided no history of the mass itself, so a little bit may be in order here. Late in his life, Haydn was commissioned to write a series of masses for the annual name’s day celebration of Princess Maria Hermengild, the wife of Haydn’s longtime employer, Nikolaus Esterhazy. Haydn wrote six, including four in B flat major, probably because B flat was the highest note he expected of the sopranos.

The Theresienmesse, one of the four B-flatters, was named for Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies, the Austrian emperor’s wife. She also happened to be a soprano soloist who sang in Haydn’s oratorios, but it’s unclear if she was the soloist in the original performance of the Theresienmesse in 1799. What is clear is that the soprano part is one of Haydn’s loveliest, filled with ravishing runs and sprightly rhythms.

The same could be said for the other solo parts, and for the choral writing itself, which is every bit the equal of the soloists throughout the mass. The whole mass, in fact, is so joyous and infectious that it’s hard to imagine it inhabiting the same space as a droning sermon.

No sermon was in evidence at this performance, other than an apologetic announcement for the need to squeeze more souls into the pews. The completely packed church resembled steerage on an 18th-century sailing vessel, with the church’s beautiful struts and beams looking for all the world like the ribbing of a ship, and with the traffic noise coming through the open doors and windows serving as the ocean.

The captain of the craft, Maestra Lemon, kept a steady hand on the helm. She is a bilaterally symmetric conductor, given to extending both arms at full length, planting her feet on the ground, and swaying at the waist. Her tempi were brisk but not hurried, her cues precise, her control of dynamics exemplary. Conducting from the floor, without a podium, she had no trouble gaining everyone’s attention, even from choristers whose heads are normally buried in their scores.

Singing against a purple backdrop of a stylized crown of thorns, the combined choirs showed strength in the opening Kyrie and kept getting better. The sopranos and tenors hit their high notes with ease, and the basses and altos offered solid counterpoint.

The soloists — soprano Carol Menke, alto Chris Fritzsche, tenor Kevin Baum and bass Tom Hart — got to shine in the Gloria, particularly in the “Domine Deus” section, where their well-rounded voices blended seamlessly. They filled the church with glorious sound, hampered only by the somewhat muffled acoustics at the upper end.

Lemon propelled the dance-like Credo through its paces, drawing good articulation from the choir and a full dynamic range from the small orchestra. The lilting 6/8 rhythms of the outer sections made for a strong contrast to the quietude of the middle, where the soloists sing of Christ’s crucifixion.

By the time the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei rolled around, the assembled forces had fully gelled and seemed capable of far more than a 45-minute mass. Sadly, encores were not to be, even though the audience kept clapping after the soloists and choir had left the altar. Perhaps the next Good Friday concert could include some appropriate orchestral music in addition to the requisite mass.