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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 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...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
California Summer Music / Sunday, July 05, 2009
Faculty Concert

Violist Sheila Browne

SSU WORKSHOP FACULTY SHINES IN UNFAMILIAR WORKS

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 05, 2009

California Summer Music is a musician’s workshop, rotating between college campuses that put young players in small classes with masters of their respective instruments. Sonoma State University is hosting the 2009 event for three weeks in July, and the CSM faculty had a chance July 5 to show the troops how strings and a piano can sing, albeit with non-traditional compositions.

Before 125 avid listeners in the Fred Warren Auditorium, string and piano performers played a concert consisting of mostly unfamiliar music, and discovery was afoot. Beginning with the Theme and Variations movement from Mozart’s E Flat Divertimento (K. 563), violinist Wendy Sharp and violist Scott Woolweaver were joined by cellist Richard Andaya in launching an inventive set of four variations that never strayed far from the richly-hued theme. Written in 1788, the work is Mozart’s only published string trio. Ms. Sharp’s violin had considerable power, juxtaposing the stately and processional cello line.

Lili Boulanger’s “Nocturne and Cortege” followed, a short seven-page work written in 1914 and, given the title, played in a surprisingly festive mood. Violinist Robin Sharp and pianist Lori Lack gave the piece, perhaps the most performed of the Boulanger works, a lilting reading, the violin pitch dead on and the piano line continually supportive.

The first half closed with two intriguing pieces, both wonderfully played. University of Tennessee composer Kenneth Jacobs wrote his Concerto for Viola, “Approaching Northern Darkness,” for Sheila Browne, and here she played just the final movement from the long 47-minute work premiered in 2005. But it was a substantial chunk, titled “Bold Declaration,” and exhibited a pulsating power and rhythmic drive throughout. This is a big movement, and Browne mastered the multiple double stops and eerie top register of her instrument with aplomb, as did pianist Julie Nishimura. The long romantic line was sustained, the lower-register viola segments contrasting with the piano’s syncopated rhythms. Browne has just recorded the entire concerto on a Zyode CD.

Following the Jacobs was daunting, and some frolic was in order, provided exuberantly by violinist Wendy Sharp and pianist Nishimura in Paul Schoenfeld’s “Four Souvenirs.” Schoenfeld’s 12-minute work cobbles together music depicting a samba, tango, Tin Pan Alley tunes and a rollicking square dance. His sensuous tango was especially effective, the tune from “Autumn Leaves” poking out and leading to the jazziest of the set, the fast square dance. Little bursts of sforzandos, played stylishly by Nishimura, were a relief of sorts from the 1920s swing melody of the Tin Pan Alley movement. The music is intricate and was deftly played, the audience seeming charmed.

Following intermission, cellist Irene Sharp, accompanied by Nishmura, played Poulenc’s 1948 Cello Sonata. The opening Allegro tempo di Marcia got off to a rocky start as Sharp had severe pitch problems, particularly in fast passages where she couldn’t find a tonal center, and her portamento was unconvincing and muddy. Things settled down in the calm and lyric Cavatine, played with just the right amount of muted sadness. The pianissimo ending was lovely. A Parisian dance hall mood characterized the Ballabile third movement, the playing finally secure, and leading to the concluding Largo-Presto finale that began with crashing forte chords from the pianist. It’s a sectional movement, pesky to keep together, with some phrases from Sharp sounding at first too tentative and then in sets of repeated chords refined and distinctive. She is an experienced cellist but eschews a virtuoso’s approach.

Virtuoso music closed the program as Santa Clara University pianist Hans Boepple played just the final section, the “Tanatella”, from the Venezia e Napoli supplement to Vol. II of Liszt’s Anées de Pèlerinage. Famous for the technical demands of fast repeated notes and demonic chord passages, the piece frequently appears as an encore at piano recitals but was an odd choice here, given the nature and freshness of the preceding music. Boepple showed good technical command and added many intriguing ritards, allowing discrete voice leadings. Apart from a brief memory lapse and a lack of the last ounce of orchestral brilliance, his playing was effective and drew the evening’s most prolonged applause.

No encores were offered by any of the musicians, appropriate for an event which showcased faculty at the beginning of a rigorous schedule of workshops for youthful musicians.