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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...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
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...
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.