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Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Numina Center for Spirituality and the Arts / Sunday, August 23, 2009
Carol Menke, soprano; Kathleen Reynolds, flute; Roy Zajac, clarinet; Laura McLellan, cello; Norma Brown, piano

AN ARTFUL AFTERNOON

by Steve Osborn
Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Numina concert in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation Aug. 23 was billed as “An Artful Afternoon,” and it was certainly full of art. Canvases by the venerable Boris Ilyn filled the north wall of Farlander Hall, and musical art of many eras—Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern—emanated from a performance space along the windowed east, with its view of the church’s cloister. The only distraction was the relentless hum of a refrigerator from the kitchen, tempered somewhat by the post-concert hors d’oeuvres therein contained.

Farlander is the church’s dining hall, designed for eating rather than music, but its linoleum floor and high ceiling, to say nothing of its restful view, offer a pleasant listening experience, oddly enhanced by large papier mâché figures of St. Francis, Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa gazing benevolently down from on high.

The subtitle of the concert was “Chamber Music with the Locals,” in this case Carol Menke, soprano, Kathleen Reynolds, flute, Roy Zajac, clarinet, Laura McLellan, cello, and the esteemed pianist Norma Brown. All five are well known to Sonoma County audiences, either as members of the Santa Rosa Symphony or as frequent soloists.

Soprano, flute, cello and piano started the afternoon with a svelte performance of two German arias by Handel. The lyrics of the first, “Süsse Stille,” were particularly appropriate to the late summer afternoon and the friendly, room-filling crowd: “Sweet stillness, gentle source / Of peaceful composure.” Menke sang the gorgeous melody mezzo voce, her voice free of any stress or strain. As always, her pronunciation was impeccable, and her intonation spot on.

Reynolds’ flute obbligato in the second aria, “Meine Seele hört im sehen,” was equally assured, and the interplay between soprano and flute was a joy to hear. Both arias evoked simplicity and happiness, coupled with masterful compositional skill.

The composer Philip Parker, still very much alive, exhibits many of the same talents as the great German master. His “Games” for flute and clarinet likewise offers simplicity and happiness, albeit at a faster pace. Each of the children’s games depicted in this four-movement piece—Leap Frog, Follow the Leader, Hop and Tag—finds its musical counterpart in the ingenious interplay between the instruments. In “Leap Frog,” for example, the one leaps over the other, and in “Follow the Leader,” the two take turns leading and following. Reynolds and Zajac performed this inventive duet to the hilt, conjuring up images of children racing across a playground.

The first half concluded with three songs for soprano and clarinet by one of Beethoven’s lesser known contemporaries, Ludwig Spohr. The first two—“Sei still, mein Herz” (Be still, my heart) and “Das heimliche Lied” (The secret song)—were typically tragic Romantic works, with the clarinet lending a plangent tone to the proceedings; but the last, “Zwiegesang” (Two songs in one), was a delight. Menke (playing the part of a girl) and Zajac (a bird) enacted their roles beautifully, each one complementing the other’s lines to Brown’s steady accompaniment.

More oddities were in store for the second half, which began with Ravel’s rarely performed “Chansons madécasses” for soprano, flute, cello and piano. These three “Songs of Madagascar,” written in 1925, are remarkable for their use of exotic musical themes and their expression of colonial guilt. Lyrics such as “Do not trust the whites!” are well removed from Romantic lieder.

The first song, “Nahandove,” began with a beautiful cello solo, expertly played by McLellan on her resonant instrument. The ensuing love story was well suited to Menke’s range, and Reynolds’ piccolo added a humorous touch. The next, “Aoua,” the warning about whites, was impressively threatening. The last, “Il est doux,” about lying under a leafy tree in the hot afternoon, was likewise slow, voluptuous and languid.

Breaking free from torpor, the concert concluded with a lively performance of a Haydn trio for flute, cello and piano, deftly played by all. Brown, who has charmed Sonoma County audiences for more than 50 years, shows no signs of slowing down. She hit all the notes with clear dynamics and phrasing, leading the charge through the sprightly Allegro opening movement, to the lilting Andantino second, and finally the finger-twisting Vivace assai. The performance was wonderful, a fitting end to an artful afternoon.