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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising 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.