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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
REVIEW

Pianist John Boyajy and Soprano Bryn Jimenez

SCHUBERT AND EXALTED MOZART IN NOVATO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marin pianist John Boyajy can’t be neutral about any important musical matter. He has passion and the ability to speak extensive words about that passion, and his excitement about Schubert, Bach and Mozart was everywhere in evidence in a duo recital with soprano Bryn Jimenez Jan. 3 in Novato’s All Saints Lutheran Church. Fifty-Five attended on a gloomy and cold day

Beginning with Schubert’s B-Flat Impromptu from Op. 142, Mr. Boyajy set the afternoon’s stage with a reading replete with chaste phrasing and balanced contrasts in the theme, five variations and coda. The non-professional church piano allowed a delicate treble pianissimo in the slow and dignified third variation but had a muddy bass section. Mr. Boyajy underscored the modulation leading to the final variation, his fast scales shimmering. The two chords of the coda were deftly played, the final one oddly broken.

Soprano Bryn Jimenez joined Mr. Boyajy in three Schubert songs to close the first half. Ms. Jimenez has a big and sometimes brash voice, not always suited to the nuance of Schubert lied, but possessing good German diction and ample drama. In “Ganymed” (D. 544) the long sustained notes were floated with care, and the piano’s ending resolution into the major was beautifully crafted. The “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” (D. 118) began with requisite rumbling repetitive piano chords, depicting the spinning process, and Ms. Jimenez’s vocal line flew effortlessly in the upper register. Here her lower staff richness became at times monochromatic, especially at high volume, but there was no lack of drama and pathos. The concluding “The Young Nun” (D. 828), a complex work from 1825 projecting an intense spiritual ecstasy, was sung with a beguiling mystery in the low voice and intrinsic histrionics. It was a gripping reading.

Bach’s C Minor Fantasia (S. 906) began the second half, in Mr. Boyajy’s capable hands. It’s a brilliant if short work, with large chromatic modulations. The pianist provided a performance that had aspects of Scarlatti’s sonatas, the turns and mordents directly stated and finger articulation and trills artfully executed.

Mozart’s solo motet “Exsultate Jubilate” (K. 165) closed the program and brought out the best singing of the afternoon. In the opening Allegro Ms. Jimenez chose a narrower vibrato than used in the Schubert songs, and Mr. Boyajy’s accompaniment was continuously forceful. The Larghetto begins with a recitative reminiscent of “The Marriage of Figaro” and was thoughtfully sung, the piano line subtlety played and modulating to the famous “alleluia” finale. Here Mozart asks a lot of the singer, the playful and happy text exploring a wide range of vocal color. Ms. Jimenez left nothing on the table, her powerful voice bringing the audience to its feet.

An encore was demanded and surprisingly Ms. Jimenez deferred to her partner, as Mr. Boyajy played Debussy’s “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from the Children’s Corner Suite. The scales were fast and the legato balanced, perhaps the most virtuosic pianism of the concert.