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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.