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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. ...
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.