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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
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 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.