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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
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 ...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Composer J. S. Bach

BACH'S CANTATAS SOAR UNDER WORTH'S DIRECTION IN WINDSOR CHRISTMAS CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bach’s massive output of cantatas, numbering more than 230 known sacred and secular works, provides a rich trove for the tradition of holiday choral concerts. Conductor Robert Worth chose four disparate examples of Bach’s compositional genius Dec. 9 in a concert combing a reduced-size Santa Rosa Symphony with the Sonoma Bach Choir and four exceptional soloists.

Part of the Donald and Maureen Green Orchestra Choral Series, the concert was the first of three and drew 350 Bach aficionados to Windsor’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. They were not disappointed in the performance, carefully managed by Mr. Worth whose affection for the cantatas was palpable as he elegantly guided vocal soloists and special instrumental parts with aplomb.

A crisp beginning of Cantata BWV 62 (Nun kommen der Heiden Heiland) brought quickly to the ear that the church had little reverberation, the sustain perhaps well under a half second. The small size orchestra, led by Santa Rosa Symphony concertmaster Joseph Edelberg, sounded right for the space, and the orchestra’s portable continuo organ, efficaciously played by Thomas Conroy, responded quickly all evening to Mr. Worth’s direction. In this setting the small organ produced more of a fundamental than a harpsichord, and of course could actually be heard to the last row. Tenor soloist Brian Staufenbiel, light of voice but secure in German diction, sang well the aria Bewundert, a Menschen and was followed by impressive fioratura from baritone Hugh Davies. Mr. Davies commanded the difficult Coda with unexpected minor-key tones in So geht aus Gottes Herrlichkeit, leading effortlessly into the short solos by the two women singers, mezzo soprano Bonnie Brooks and soprano Carol Menke. The recitative duet, albeit abbreviated, was lovely. Ms. Menke’s silken voice easily soared over the audience.

A work for Christmas, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (BWV 91) closed the first half and had two French horns in unison calling the forces to action. Horn players Darby Hinshaw and Alex Camphouse played without sheet music and nailed the tricky three-note repeated presto phrases, though the wicked top treble notes were a challenge. Ms. Menke began unaccompanied in the Choral Der Glanz der höchsten Herrlichkeit, followed by the Choir’s women singers and then Mr. Staufenbiel. The dialogue with the winds and bassoon was lovely, as were the syncopated rhythmic patterns in the orchestra.

The Third Cantata (Herr Gott, dich loben wir, BWV 16) opened the second half with Randall Keith’s strong bass viol line, and Doug Morton’s quietly insistent trumpet solos with a long line. Mr. Morton’s trills in the third part were clear, as was Ms. Brooks' recitative solo Ach treuer Hort. The aria Geliebter Jesu, du allein was an exceptional experience as without the Choir and Orchestra an elegant ensemble unfolded. Cellist Wanda Warkenton, English hornists Barbara Midney and Laura Reynolds and Mr. Conroy wove a refined rich sonic tapestry with Mr. Staufenbiel’s graceful phrasing that underscored Bach’s contrapuntal mastery.

The concert ended with a celebratory fanfare from the French horns and a staggered introduction of the four choral voice groups in the BWV Cantata 65 Sie warden aus Saba alle kommen. Mr. Worth, accurate as always with his left-arm cutoffs, guided the movement and the alleluia-like Chorale Die kön’ge aus Saba kamen dar with a pulsating continuo. The pacing was compact and the unison flute parts from Kathleen Reynolds and Bonnie Lockett melted into the music from the horns.

The vociferous applause after the fourth Bach Cantata seemed to have a component of not being sated with just four works from the Leipzig master. Praise of the performance can go no higher.