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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
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.