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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 ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Deep Valley Chamber Music Series / Sunday, February 14, 2010
Yuri Cho and Valerie Li, violins
David Samuel, viola
Adrian Fung, cello

Afiara String Quartet

QUARTETS AND A CHRYSANTHEMUM VALENTINE IN UKIAH

by James Houle
Sunday, February 14, 2010

David Rounds, founder of the Deep Valley Chamber Music Series in Ukiah, has done it once again by engaging the exciting Afiara String Quartet for a Valentine’s Day performance in the Grace Hudson Museum. For an overflow audience, the young players from Canada provided a demonstration of the evolving Gallant and Classical styles perfected by Haydn in his six Op. 33 quartets, and which Mozart so effectively copied in his series of six quartets dedicated to Haydn. The last of Mozart's set of six, Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 (“The Dissonant”) is classicism its zenith with eloquent balance and restraint. In the second half of the program, the Afiara continued their affinity with Beethoven in his Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 (“Rasumovsky”). Here Beethoven had found he could no longer work within the confines of the classical style and broke free into Romanticism and a heroic individuality.

The program began with a new work by the young Serbian composer Alexsandra Vrebalov, “Pannonia Boundless.” In a short seven minutes the Afiara unleashed a sad lament for violin, a romantic elegy for viola, and a crazed gypsy dance for two violins. Violinists Valeri Li and Yuri Cho threw the wild melodies back and forth with abandon. It would be easy to play this work too heavily, forcing the violins to complete for attention with the lower strings, and to try to overwhelm them, but Afiara avoided this path and made the Czardas a light and exciting dance. Violist David Samuel provided much verve.

Strangely, the Afiara followed with the haunting “Crisantemi,” a beautiful but sad memorial written by Puccini upon the death of the Duke of Savoy in 1890. While Puccini loved chamber music, he devoted himself to the operatic stage, except for an early quartet in D Major and some trifles. But in “Crisantemi” there is a brief but lovely chrysanthemum, and the composer found in its opening passage a rising chromatic duet for the violins that was so exquisite he reused it in the last act of his 1893 opera “Manon Lescaut.” The Quartet’s delicate playing was enough to make one sigh or cry.

Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet opens where the “Crisantemi” leaves off – a descending chromatic passage. In the last of the six “Haydn Quartets,” melodies and phrases are tossed between the players as in an intimate conversation, making it difficult at times to know exactly who is speaking. The Afiara's control of piano and pianissimo was exemplary. The second movement was performed serenely, the fourth with considerable gusto.

From 1807, Beethoven’s F Major Quartet featured in the first movement Ms. Li’s strongly romantic violin line, following the Adam Fung’s authoritative thematic playing in the cello. Mr. Fung’s cello tended to dominate in much of this “Rasumovsky” reading but never in a way that took away from the other players. The second movement opens with the 15 repeated notes, the same figure returning as the movement develops. During the afternoon the pizzicato playing by the Alfiara was wonderful to watch as well as to hear. The fourth-movement “Theme Russe” pays homage to the Count Razumovsky, the Russian Tsar's ambassador to Vienna and to the Count's own talents as a violinist.

An encore was demanded by the audience, and the Quartet responded with a brief passage from Shostakovich’s Suite from “The Gadfly.”

With this concert the Afiara completed its American tour and returned to New York, leaving Mendocino County a lovely Valentine’s Day present of memorable music.